Process Optimization: Get More From Your Processes With These 6 Methods

Process Optimization: Get More From Your Processes With These 6 Methods

Process Optimization: Get More From Your Processes With These 6 Methods

It might be a reasonable assumption to make that humans are seized of the need to make efforts to improve their lot. And that it is an ongoing exercise. While you may choose to not pursue the same actively from a certain point onwards, perhaps you will never reach a point where you could say that it cannot be done any better.

We are referring to individual, isolated processes here, and not life as a whole. The reason is that there are many adherents to Newton’s third law of motion, which is “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” who argue that taken together, life is a zero-sum game. Even if you gain in one place you will lose in another.

Whether a believer in this law or not, what is not up for debate is that an individual process or a set of processes could be improved. This is the motivation behind human effort. If one were to take the view that by improving something you will cause a deterioration in something else, all human endeavor will come to a standstill.

The same is applicable in its entirety to organizations, since they are managed and guided by human beings and their philosophies.

Organizations are constantly trying to optimize their processes so that they can deliver on their eventual goal of maximizing returns to owners or shareholders through the means of offering products and services in their defined niche. And there is no finish line. It always wants more.  

A solo entrepreneur may want to increase his profits from $50K last year to $60K this year.

A global giant like Apple may be trying to enhance their net income from $57B (yes, that is 57 billion US dollars) to $67B in 2021.

Whoever you are, you will no doubt be working on several ideas that will enable you to do so. These ideas are an effort at getting more from the business and its process with the help of process optimization methods.

At the generic level, the effort is to try to increase revenues and control or reduce costs, both actions leading to an increase in profits or net income. As it is not always possible to translate any improvement into its bottomline impact, especially in larger organizations, many other variables are targeted that become quasi or representative variables of the end goal.

What could some of these look like?

  • Improving customer satisfaction index
  • Reducing the headcount for the process
  • Increasing the output from the process
  • Releasing output to the customer faster
  • Lower level of people attrition

Whatever be the area that is chosen for improvement, there are certain essential principles that might be common to all initiatives, that will be described in the ensuing paragraphs.

 

Measurement is the backbone of all process optimization methods

Shooting in the dark is not reported to be a particularly beneficial activity. Of course, one could get a lucky hit occasionally but are likely to draw a blank on most occasions. Besides, the occasional lucky shot does not enable us to separate the grain from the chaff. A bad shooter could get a lucky hit just as much as a crack shot.

When you are working in an organization and using its resources to achieve the goals you have been assigned, you have a responsibility to make the best use of them. Whether resources have been used gainfully or otherwise can only be known if there is a measurement around it. Even the setting up a company, its business model, are based on ‘cases.’ The ‘case’ establishes the gain (or loss) to the company on account of proceeding with the suggested course.

You can ask the organization to provide resources if you have a case based on which you return to the organization more than what you have used. Ideally the measurement is in objective and numeric terms, often financial. On occasion, and this may need to be decided by the highest authorities, the case could also be based on less objective measures like ‘flying business class instead of economy as it will give me three uninterrupted hours with the client which could lead to…”

Unless you know the present level of the process that you are trying to improve, you will never know if, as a result of your process optimization methods, there has been an improvement or not.

Of course, a solo entrepreneur might be tempted to take initiatives without establishing the baseline to measure against. While not recommended, we must not forget that he is measured on the most critical parameter of all, the profitability of the company, for which she alone is responsible. Hence, in a way, there is a measurement system in place.

Management guru Peter Drucker is credited with the phrase, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

oWorkers has consistently delivered over 99% accuracy level, across a variety of client projects using many different measurement systems. This has been possible to establish only as the result of a rigorous process for measurement of performance in each area of work.

 

Process redesign and reengineering

The systems and processes that got the business up to this point, may not be able to take it from this point onwards. Central Asian tribes were conquering large territories with their sturdy horses and swords around the end of the first millennia, but by the third quarter of the second millennia they were ceding ground to Europeans with their technologically advanced weaponry that now included gunpowder. Eating out was known to be a slow process. You get to a diner, select what you want, place the order, fiddle with your napkins or make idle conversation for the next twenty minutes and then the food got served. Fast food restaurants turned the idea on its head by keeping food that was ready, a limited choice of menu options, and delivery of food as soon as you order. With dramatic results.

Success is not guaranteed to anyone. The biggest corporations fall by the wayside if they fail to keep pace with changing times and requirements. One has to be aware of the goings-on in the world around us as well as conscious of the linkages our internal processes have with the outside world. There are many variables that keep changing.

When only a few cheques were drawn, it might have made sense to send them directly to the drawee bank for payment. But when volumes grew, it made sense to change the process and introduce a clearing house through which all cheques could be settled.

Most process optimization methods would include an element of business process redesign or reengineering. Not for the sake of doing it, but because there is a better model in the new world, knowing fully well that it might need to be tweaked all over again in a few years.

oWorkers is GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified. While it has established processes it constantly looks for opportunities of process redesign and process reengineering in a controlled manner, ensuring that the resultant process is better than the one used earlier. Our three geographical locations, delivering services in over 22 languages, are guided by a continuous improvement team that is housed under our Quality team.

 

Process optimization methods love automation

Human beings are no doubt the smartest beings on this planet, with the ability to capture the most insignificant, subliminal nuance in a situation, but they have limitations. They cannot, for example, take in huge amounts of data simultaneously. A human judge on the finish line of a sprint may be able to pick out the winner, but not the second and third place runners at the same time. Humans find it difficult to keep personal bias and prejudice out of their decisions, making their objectivity suspect. We might believe that people who look different from us are more prone to crime than people who look like us. Human beings have moods. They have good days and bad days. They can make mistakes. Above all, they need constant maintenance, pampering as well as money.

If a machine or software program could do the work instead of humans, many of the issues highlighted above could be solved. Once taught, machines will continue to do the same thing again and again. They do not need pampering. Power it on and it is ready to go. And, perhaps most significantly for a business, they may need an initial investment, but don’t need to be paid a monthly salary, don’t negotiate for better working conditions, don’t ask for raises and days off. Hence, automation has been the dream solution for businesses.

The automation efforts driven by software have now progressed to the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business processes. Machines have been created to understand formatted language, known as software code, for many decades. Now machines are being taught how to interpret and understand and act on unformatted cues. Like an image. Or a text conversation between two people. The next phase of automation seems likely to be driven by AI.

Two thirds of its clients being technology companies, with unicorn marketplaces being a part of the list, oWorkers needs to be at the cutting edge of technology. It has forged deep relationships with technology providers that allows it to use the latest technologies for the work it does for clients. We are supporting clients as they build and test AI models with a wide variety of applications.

 

Virtual Work

Ever since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant shift to virtual work. Of course, where it could be done, like software development, or designing. One still cannot put bricks in a building virtually, or deliver food virtually. But work where it was possible to operate virtually has been quick to adopt this method.

In the present context, a discussion on process optimization methods will be incomplete if virtual work options are not considered.

A sudden spurt of natural optimization has emerged from the enforced virtualization. A lot of people are saving both time and money on commuting between home and office. Staying at home means one can also cook and eat food at home, instead of relying on food outlets near the office, leading to a salutary impact on employee health. Companies can save money on expensive downtown real estate.

It goes without saying each of these benefits would have a flipside impact too. Food outlets in commercial areas would be losing business. Real estate owners would have seen an ebbing away of demand for their products. Each company needs to evaluate the situation from its own perspective and insulate itself against possible downside risks while taking advantage of the upside that each new situation presents.

oWorkers has been quick to adapt its technologies and processes to the needs of virtual work. We have ensured our client business stays unimpacted, to the extent influenced by our work, and we offer each employee the option of working from home or office, in all the three locations we operate from.

 

Control – nothing else should change

If you remember the whac-a-mole arcade game, you will probably remember that as soon as you whack one down, another one pops up. The process keeps repeating and you have to keep whacking them down.

The basic theory in process optimization methods, regardless of which specific one you use, is that once whacked, a mole should stay down and no other should pop up in its place.

Why is that?

The point being made is that the gains on delivering improvement in one aspect should not be lost by a matching slippage in another one. What you gain on the swings should not be frittered away on the roundabouts.

If tasked to enhance the output of a certain process, one can, without breaking a sweat, either hire more resources if the process is manual, or buy more equipment if it is system-driven. Easy, isn’t it? But anyone can do that. It does not need a genius to implement. What the company has gained on higher production it has lost on additional manpower cost or equipment cost. So, it can hardly be called an improvement.

What would be an improvement, though, is if the same thing can be done, production enhanced, without either hiring additional resources or buying more equipment. That is the kind of result that should come out of implementation of an improvement initiative.

If tasked to reduce cost, one could simply stop hiring people, assuming it is a largely manual process. However, that would eventually starve the business of resources, reducing output, impacting on revenue and finally the profit. Such reduction in cost is not what the business asked for. It wanted cost reduction while ensuring that the output and revenue do not fall, which will lead to greater profits as the cost would have reduced.

Hence, the control of ‘everything else remaining the same is essential, which is what oWorkers abides by. Its Quality team carefully establishes the parameters at the start enabling a comparison with the same parameters once the project has been implemented.

 

Process optimization methods include outsourcing

In the modern world, outsourcing has emerged as the savior of many a business process from being the lame duck that dragged its business to failure.

Specializing in a particular area of work, say finance, or assembling auto components, stitching garments, businesses often struggle to keep up with the demands of the many support processes that they need to do in order that their product or service is fully ready. They neither have the skills for some of these processes nor interest in doing them. Outsourcing spares them this agony and enables them to focus on their core business, while getting a better yield from the outsourced non-core process.

Outsourcing a process gets the attention of another set of hands and eyes, of the partner, enhancing the possibility of creating a winning, improved process.

With the scalable outsourcing solutions offered by oWorkers, companies have reported savings of upto 80% over their pre outsourcing costs, without any compromise on quality. As a pure-play data BPO player, oWorkers has been identified as one of the top three data services providers in the world.

We provide a stable operating environment with the help of employed staff, not freelancers, led by a team with over 20 years of hands-on experience in the industry.

Madagascar Business Process Outsourcing – A Guide

Madagascar Business Process Outsourcing – A Guide

Madagascar Business Process Outsourcing – A Guide

Where in the world?

This might well be the question asked by an outsourcer today, wherever he is, while trying to identify a suitable location for outsourcing his business processes to.

Thanks to advances in telecommunications technology, he has the whole world available to him for his business.

This is important not just for the outsourcer, but the provider too, who needs to be constantly on the lookout for locations that will help him gain a competitive advantage.

But it was not always like this.

Around the middle of the last century, as consumer franchises started to grow, and major contribution to revenue coming from major urban centers, the need for relocating processing activities that were not customer-facing, away from expensive downtown real estate, started being felt.

This is where the first stage of outsourcing, as we know it today, perhaps started, when this business looked at options which were not far in physical terms, but where processing could be done in a much more inexpensive manner, and perhaps more efficiently. At this stage, if the business was operating from New York, it moved its large-scale processing activities from expensive New York to a lower cost option in the state of New Jersey.

As volumes kept rising, communication technology improving and air travel becoming frequent, the time and distance between locations kept reducing. At this stage, having had experience of outsourced processing, and having become comfortable enough with it, businesses started to move processing activities much further into the hinterland, even though most documents would still need to be moved manually. At this stage the processing might be moved inland to Des Moines in Iowa or Sioux Falls in South Dakota.

Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. Increasing volumes, comfort with outsourcing and pressures of core business brought professional outsourcing outfits into the picture. Large outsourcers started outsourcing what they considered non-core functions to professional Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies.

Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. It became possible to move data and voice communication lines, at a commercially viable price, to anywhere in the world. Eager to take advantage of labor cost arbitrage, which would more than make up for higher telecommunications cost, large-volume work, like Contact Centers, started being taken offshore, to locations like India and the Philippines.

The footprint has continued to grow to cover many more geographies around the world as modern communications technology has expanded rapidly, bringing hitherto lesser known Madagascar Business Process Outsourcing onto the map.

The mix of processes outsourced has also continued to evolve. Functions earlier considered core and kept inhouse have been outsourced. Modern technologies have given rise to new processes requiring outsourcing, like data entry for Ecommerce businesses and data annotation for Artificial Intelligence (AI) models.

 

Madagascar – a new hub of Business Process Outsourcing

The fourth largest island in the world, larger than France in area, situated more than 200 miles off the Eastern coast of Africa, is in the fray for Business Process Outsourcing and is competing with and winning business away from Tunisia and Morocco as a new hub of francophone BPO activities.

The current population of Madagascar is estimated at 28 million and forecast to double to 54 million by 2050. Approximately 42.5 percent of the population is younger than 15 years of age, while 54.5 percent are between the ages of 15 and 64. Those aged 65 and older form 3 percent of the total population. A large percentage of the population is in the working age, and poised to grow further, making it easier to hire and retain resources. With the move to fiber optic cabling a few years back, Madagascar boasts one of the best internet speeds in the continent. It also has the advantage of being not more than 3 hours away from any time zone in Europe.

 

Criteria for choosing a BPO location

Choosing a place for locating a business or service is a normal business decision. As an outsourcer, you need to ensure that the outsourcing decision adds value to the business, like any other decision you take for the business.

With BPO being a global business, while it provides you with plenty of choices, it also makes the decision more complex. What are the factors that might be relevant when you choose a location which will become the primary delivery point for a process that is a part of your business?

Political Environment

The political environment sets the tone for the rest of the nation to take cues from and chart their respective courses. Business requires investment which thrives on predictability in the economic environment which, in turn, depends on the political climate. It is difficult for a business to make an investment decision based on a certain set of regulations if it has experienced that the rules keep changing on the whim of the person or persons in power. What seemed like a good business decision yesterday has become a bad one as a result of the last such change and the same could happen again.

With a chequered political climate ever since attainment of independence, as with many newly independent states, Madagascar has its share of challenges in governance, with international agencies alternately pledging and withdrawing support depending on the state of affairs. Over the last few years, the importance of stability and continuity in decision-making does seem to be dawning on the people in charge, leading to opening up of opportunities for private businesses like oWorkers to start its Madagascar BPO operations.

Human resource availability

This probably is the most important variable, as much of BPO work is people dependent. One should ascertain the availability of suitable manpower that can be employed for the different kinds of services on offer. Some of this assessment may need to be done with the use of surrogate variables as there may not be any direct indicators that provide this information like the number of colleges which offer course which match requirement of the business, like Accounting if the need is for F&A, number of fresh graduates passing out every year, migration trends from location; how many people choose to relocate for want of employment prospects, other employers hiring a similar profile; this could work both ways – while others hiring similar profile indicates availability of a pool, it also means that there is greater competition for that resource.

With a young population of 28 million that is forecast to double to 54 million by 2050 which consists of approximately 42.5 percent younger than 15 years, while 54.5 percent are between the ages of 15 and 64, there is a large, growing talent pool available to Madagascar BPO providers. Flexible labor laws allow oWorkers the flexibility to offer quick ramps, up and down.

Resource Cost

Related to resource availability is the issue of cost at which resources become available to Madagascar BPO providers. In addition, one needs to also factor in the cost to acquire and retain that resource. In other words, is a lot of effort required to attract the right talent? Effort will translate to cost, and the greater the effort the greater the cost. What about attrition? Is it high? Each time someone leaves the hiring machinery needs to be cranked up all over again, which is a cost.

oWorkers taps into the Madagascar Business Process Outsourcing talent pool that is available for $130 per month. This is less than half the starting salary in competing locations like Tunisia and Morocco, while being thrice the minimum wage stipulation in Madagascar. Attrition remains low, reducing pressure on hiring and training.

Telecommunications Network

Telecommunications is the lubricant that has oiled the wheels of the BPO industry and allowed it to expand to the far corners of the world. Even though it is almost a given in today’s context, from a business perspective we still need to tick the boxes and satisfy ourselves that the available infrastructure will meet business needs.

According to thehustle.co “With the fastest internet in Africa, Madagascar has grown to be a major player in the BPO sector for French-speaking markets” and “Madagascar has the fastest internet in Africa — even faster than some first world countries such as the UK, France, and Canada.” Plugging into this fiber optic cable network, with quadruple redundancy in the form of Fiber, 4G, ADSL and satellite, allows oWorkers to offer efficient transaction processing to its clients out of its Madagascar BPO centers.

Time Zone

The world is generally visualized as being spread out in an East-West direction, with time changing as you go more East or West from a certain point. But we know the world is round. One could also travel vertically in a North-South direction from a starting point. Whatever distance we travel we will be in the same time zone. Being in a different time zone could have benefits as well as limitations. Being in a time zone with a large difference from the client might enable speedier, overnight processing. On the flip side, requiring staff to work off hours in the BPO center might increase costs.

oWorkers in Madagascar is on East Africa Time which is UTC + 3 and shared with Eastern Europe Summer, Israel Daylight and Moscow time. This helps us in providing regular daytime shifts to most employees who work on projects for European clients.

Physical infrastructure – Electricity

Infrastructure required for running a business can be of various kinds, like power, water, food, cooling (or heating) as the case may be. We will focus on power, which is the most time-critical resource for a business to run. The others being requirements that can perhaps be borne even if missing for short periods of time.

Power supply is required for running any sort of equipment, whether it is a PC, or a fan, or lighting, even most of the telecommunications equipment. Adequacy and continuity of power grid power needs to be ascertained. Many BPOs tend to be set up in developing economies where some of the infrastructure, like power, is less than robust. In such cases, it needs to be ensured that backup arrangements, like power generating units, are available so that the shortfall can be met.

oWorkers believes in redundancy in physical infrastructure in its Madagascar BPO, so that client delivery is not hampered. With 2 Electric generators on the standby, we have adequate supply of power to meet all our needs.

Multilingual capability

Language is the medium through which human beings communicate. While the technical part of communication is handled through telecommunications networks, human interaction can only happen through language. Not only the language in which the outsourcer and provider can communicate, but in each language in which the outsourcing business needs to interact with customers and other stakeholders in the outside world.

Perhaps on account of being a French colony till 1958, proficiency in French is high, making it an ideal location for serving the francophone market for Madagascar BPO vendors. oWorkers leverages its centers in Madagascar for the services it offers to clients in French apart from other languages that derive from Latin.

Civic Services – Local Transport

While telecommunications connects the world making it possible to transfer information and knowledge between locations, a system of civic services, like transport, like law and order, is required for not only the business to operate but also employees to commute to and from work when working out of a physical facility.

The urban Antananarivo, the largest city in Madagascar, provides multiple public transportation options which locals use quite comfortably, though visitors might find them uncomfortable and confusing. Staff of oWorkers relies on this system to travel from home to either of the two Madagascar Business Process Outsourcing centers, both located in Antananarivo.

Economics

Finally, the economics of the decision need to make sense.

It helps if there are incentives available from the authorities, as BPOs have the potential of creating jobs in a sluggish market.

Competition also has an impact on both sides. The existence of competition means available resources will be in greater demand and could become more expensive as a result. On the positive side, the existence of competition means that you are perhaps in the right place for a BPO.

Also, just like the political environment, the economic environment needs to be governed by policies that are stable and transparent for private businesses to get confidence to invest.   

A business does not exist in isolation. It exists in an ecosystem where there are many other players. We need to ensure that the ecosystem we seek to place the business in, is one that will provide a supportive environment.

oWorkers Madagascar BPO is in a position to offer most services at a rate lower than many established locations like India for similar services without sacrificing quality, with the availability of a large pool of experienced data entry operators, moderators, moderation experts and accountants and many others.

 

In Conclusion

With its temperate climate despite being located in the tropics, Antananarivo, the capital city, largest urban center and where both the centers of oWorkers are located, offers a pleasant year-round climate, apart from the business benefits we have discussed earlier.

Many of our clients are already working with us from our centers in Madagascar.

As a Madagascar BPO services company, with a management team that has a cumulative experience of over 20 years, with oWorkers you engage a provider that will enable you to get the benefit of working from a center located in a developing economy while managing the downside risks for you.

BPO Services Company: How to Choose One

BPO Services Company: How to Choose One

BPO Services Company: How to Choose One

 

BPO Services: An Overview

B

Business

P

Process

O

Outsourcing

We perhaps intuitively understand the meaning of the three words that constitute the term Business Process Outsourcing, but do we have a common understanding of the phrase formed by bringing the three words together?

There is perhaps no ‘official’ definition of BPO though descriptions can be found on websites like Investopedia, Wikipedia and Quora. These are some common ways of expressing what a BPO is:

  • BPO is a practice used by different companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally

  • BPO is subcontracting work to another company

  • BPO is a subset of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of specific business functions (or processes) to a third-party service provider

  • BPO is the contracting of a specific business task, such as payroll, to a third-party service provider

And here are some common examples of BPO services:

  • A vendor company handling incoming customer service calls for a telecom company

  • Data entry for products offered on an ecommerce site

  • Payroll processing and employee benefits administration being handled for a large corporate by a company specialising in this service

Another term that is being used somewhat interchangeably with BPO, is BPM, which stands for Business Process Management, perhaps driven by a need to encompass Global Inhouse Centers, the owned processing centers of businesses, within the fold. Of course, it could be argued that where a process has been carved out and is being run as a separate unit, albeit under the same company, it is still a version of outsourcing.

 

How does a BPO Service Company add value?

A company that manufactures aircraft engines makes all the thousands of its parts on its own. True or False.

All of us who have children educate them ourselves at home. True or False.

The answer in both cases is: False.

We live in an interconnected and interdependent world. Trying to add value to the best of our capability. To ourselves. To our employers. To our businesses. Entering into arrangements and deals and contracts through which we can make the world a better place. Doing some parts ourselves and purchasing other parts from people and businesses that can perform them better.

An aircraft engine manufacturer outsources various parts to many other companies that are equipped to make them more efficiently, or with greater precision or at a lower cost.

Most of us send our children to school because they have the knowledge and experience to provide our children with a better understanding of the world.

How is Business Process Outsourcing any different?

It is not. A BPO company adds value by taking on processing activities which can be better performed by them. This could be for a variety of reasons like bulk volume, better tools and technology or greater experience. But the bottomline is that BPO companies add value to your business by doing certain processes more efficiently and effectively than your business can.

Most of us operate in a free-market economy. Each business operates to maximise its profits and shareholder value, operating within the confines of a regulatory framework which is common to all.

There have been voices against business process outsourcing on flimsy grounds like ‘taking away jobs,’ Flimsy because people who object are happy buying reasonably priced athletic shoes made by outsourcing to a faraway country, or flying on an airline that bought its aircraft from another company which, in turn, purchased many of the parts from suppliers, but when their employer wishes to outsource some work that we do to a place where it can be done cheaply and efficiently, creating value for the business, we suddenly find that outsourcing is an unethical activity. It cannot work both ways.

Business Process Outsourcing, like any outsourcing, or any business activity, is not a given. It is a choice for which an assessment needs to be done for a decision to be taken. A business takes a decision, any decision, for improving its financial position. Outsourcing is no different. It is an opportunity to add value.

Evolution of BPO Services

A Business Process Outsourcing company was not always what it is today, running on a technology backbone over the Internet, with clients liberally sprayed all across the globe.

Let us take the hypothetical example of a US bank, with its headquarters and significant part of its business coming from New York, to understand the evolution.

In the sixties, and perhaps seventies, with rising prosperity, and with the growth of retail franchises, the need for separating processing activities that were not customer-facing, started being felt.

This is where the first stage of outsourcing, as we know it today, perhaps started, when this bank looked at options which were not far in physical terms, but where processing could be done in a much more inexpensive manner, and perhaps more efficiently. At this stage, it moved its large-scale processing activities from expensive New York to a lower cost option in the state of New Jersey.

Volumes kept rising. Communication technology improved. Air travel kept rising in frequency, cutting down time and distance between locations. The bank, at this stage, perhaps in the early eighties, having had experience of outsourced processing, became comfortable enough to move processing activities much further into the hinterland, even though most documents would still need to be moved manually. At this stage the bank moved processing to Des Moines in Iowa.

Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. By the nineties, it became possible to move data and voice communication lines, at a commercially viable price. Eager to take advantage of labour cost arbitrage, which would more than make up for higher telecommunications cost, the bank started moving large-volume work, like Contact Centres, to India and the Philippines.

Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. By the start of the new millennium, having tasted success with earlier outsourcing efforts, the bank started moving functions which were smaller, and perhaps more core to its business, like HRM and F and A, in an effort to take advantage of lower cost, as well as superior processing with a faster turnaround facilitated by the time difference. BPO companies in other geographies around the world started gaining scale and competing for business with India and the Philippines.

The bank continues to look for opportunities and the BPO services keep evolving. As existing manual processes get automated, newer tasks and processes are born. Now the bank is looking to outsource the moderation of user generated content (UGC) on its website.

In a nutshell, businesses will continue to look for value. It is hard coded in their DNA.

Choosing a Business Process Outsourcing Company

With the foregoing perspective, choosing a partner for our processing activities should become a reasonably straightforward process. At least we now know that the evaluation should be based on criteria that drive business value, and nothing else. The BPO service company we engage for our work should be able to deliver the best quality to us, in the quickest time, at the best price.

How do we establish the potential of a company to do this for us?

Range of services

Business Process Outsourcing covers a wide range of services. While at the point of choosing a BPO services company for outsourcing, the most important would be to ensure that the vendor has prior experience in your current requirement so that the learning curve is not long and steep, verifying the range of services offered and their capability helps establish the depth of their experience and their ability to support you as and when you choose to go beyond the current scope.

oWorkers specialises in content-oriented services in which we offer a wide range covering data entry, data processing, data annotation and content moderation. Over eight years of operation, we have processed millions of transactions for over a hundred clients.

Industry exposure and client confidence

It always adds value if a client can recommend your services. In addition to having one or more referenceable clients, for a BPO company, the cross-industry range covered as well as the number of clients served, is a useful indicator for its capability. Each industry, and different clients in the same industry, are likely to have variations in their requirements which will add to the knowledge bank and experience of the provider.

oWorkers has served over a hundred clients across a set of widely different industries like companies engaged in dematerialization, aggregators, marketplaces, e-merchants, e-travel players,  AI companies, online media, gaming apps, social media websites, video production houses, universities and accounting firms, to name a few.

Multi site backup

When a business process is entrusted to a BPO company, the client does not retain manpower or other resources to provide cover in case the partner fails to deliver, perhaps on account of an external force, like a natural calamity, that makes the facility inaccessible and uproots the telecommunications infrastructure. It would be an extra cost and defeat the purpose of outsourcing. Such events, though infrequent, can occur. Though delay in work under such extenuating circumstances can be explained, the preference for a business would be if there is an arrangement that provides cover. Global BPO companies tend to operate from multiple sites, which can operate as back-ups for one another.

oWorkers provides BPO services from three of the most preferred global locations for the business. Where required, we are able to provide multi-site support that can also operate as a business contingency measure in the event one of the sites is down for some reason beyond our control. Our sites operate 24×7 and geared to offer best-in-class turnaround time.

Language Support

BPO being a truly global business, where clients as well as the Business Process Outsourcing company could be in any geographical location around the world, the ability to handle business from anywhere requires multilingual capability. Businesses are always looking to expand. Whether you are already global or aspire to be, you will need a vendor with the ability to support your growth, rather than you having to look for another one to support a new language.

oWorkers supports clients in over 20 global languages covering most of the widely used ones. We are also open to adding languages to our supported list if a client has a requirement outside the list.

Project Management and Transition expertise

Moving work over to a BPO company requires a ‘lift and shift’ sort of an operation. Work being done within the client’s organisation under the responsibility of their team till today, will be done in the vendor’s company under supervision of the vendor’s team from tomorrow. This process is known as ‘transition’ and needs to be done carefully, lest parts fall through the crack, to be discovered only after the business has suffered damage. The skill of carrying out a ‘transition’ under the discipline of ‘Project Management’ is a critical skill at the time a new business process is outsourced to a partner.

Our project management and transition experience has been a key contributor to oWorkers having served hundreds of satisfied clients over eight years. For us, a client’s delivery experience begins the moment a contract is signed and the transition process is initiated, which our Project Management team takes up and owns through the point where the delivery organization can take it over. Our numerous engagements have also helped us in honing our practices further.

Technology Infrastructure

Technology being the key enabler, ensuring currency with technology, as well as the mindset of tracking technology developments and keeping pace with them, will be good qualities to possess for a BPO services company.

With 85% of our clients being technology companies, we are always on our toes to stay one step ahead while we serve them. We have forged partnerships with companies that own the technologies needed for our work, which enables us to deploy them in the service of our clients.

Data Security

As the operations are on clients’ data, which moves around from client to vendor, and from one processor to another, a Business Process Outsourcing company has to ensure security of this data. Data is a key resource for a business and loopholes in maintenance of data can compromise the ability of the business. This typically works hand in hand with technology as data is mostly used in a digital format.

oWorkers operates from secure facilities and protocols. GDPR compliance is a requirement, not a choice, as we operate from the Eurozone. We are also ISO certified (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).

Attrition Management and Hiring

‘It is a feature, not a bug,’ is how Business Process Outsourcing companies often justify their attrition. While true to some extent, attrition is a constant bugbear for many of them and often the difference between a successful one and a not-so-successful one. The impact of attrition runs through the financials right down to the bottomline. Limiting attrition means a significant upside not only in knowledge retention but always in saving the cost incurred on hiring and training more and more resources. Attrition and Hiring are directly linked. The greater the attrition the greater the hiring need. And vice versa.

oWorkers is deeply committed to the communities we work in. A job with oWorkers is among the more desirable opportunities for people in the workforce which enables us to attract a steady flow of interested candidates for our open positions. It also enables us to ramp up and down for client requirements and seasonal volume handling with ease. We can commit to ramping up by almost a hundred resources within 48 hours. We provide the flexibility for our resources to work from home during the pandemic which also ensures that our delivery continues unhindered.

Internal Quality

As a client, once you have outsourced your requirements to a professional outfit, you should not need to be involved on a day-to-day basis in running that business. The organisation of the vendor should step us to play that role. This is where the Internal Quality team plays an important role in a BPO. It keeps tabs on the output produced by the delivery team and ensures that the output that eventually reaches the client is of good quality.

oWorkers relies on its QA (Quality Analysis) and QC (Quality Control) processes to keep the delivery teams honest. The reporting line of this team is kept independent of the delivery team to ensure their work is not compromised. They also form an important link in keeping senior management informed.

Regulatory and Financial position

While ability to deliver is an obvious requirement, equally important is to ensure that the BPO company that seeks to be a partner is a friend of the establishment and the regulatory environment it operates in.

It is also important for the partner to be in a financially sound position so that the client can be assured of continuity of services at least in the immediate future.

oWorkers operates locally registered entities in all its delivery locations. It pays local taxes as well as social taxes from its employees. The work you outsource to us enables us to hire a few more disadvantaged people and help them become a part of the global digital workforce. oWorkers has been a consistently profitable enterprise with practices that help us keep costs in control and share the savings with our clients through competitive pricing.

In Conclusion

oWorkers has been ranked amongst the top 3 data entry companies in the world. Our pricing is transparent and we can offer clients a choice of per unit of time pricing or per unit of output pricing. Several clients have reported savings of up to 80%. Many of our clients are referenceable and displayed on our website. A number of unicorn marketplaces choose oWorkers as their BPO company. We hope you will too.

Guide to Egypt Outsourcing (BPO)

Guide to Egypt Outsourcing (BPO)

Guide to Egypt Outsourcing (BPO)

 

If one had to find the center of the world, chances are that it would be in or close to Egypt. Egypt has Europe directly above across the Mediterranean, Africa languorously stretched out below, the mass of Asia hulking to the right with the Americas a hop across the Atlantic to the left.

For a business that involves providing a variety of services to its clients across the world as is the case with Business Process Outsourcing, or BPO, there perhaps could not be a better location than Egypt. With telecommunications technology making it possible for work to be done in the most appropriate locations, anywhere in the world, Egypt BPO is ready to make its geographical location count.

But it was not always this way. Egypt outsourcing was nowhere near as established as a natural provider of BPO services just a few years back as it is today.

Outsourcing services started getting recognized when consumer businesses started gaining in volume and reach. This could have happened sometime around the middle of the 20th century. Having said that, outsourcing has always been an option for a business or organization or even individuals, from time immemorial. Hiring a teacher or tutor for your children can be considered as a form of outsourcing, can it not? Instead of tutoring your children yourself, you are outsourcing the task to a ‘vendor’ for a commercial consideration. Pope Julius II commissioning Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel could be considered as an act of outsourcing, could it not?

The initial push was for ‘internal outsourcing’ where businesses would segregate the teams that were carrying out activities that met their criteria and could be segregated. This could be based on volume, it could be based on whether it was customer-facing or not, or it could be based on whether it needs to be done in real-time or could be done with a lag. Whatever the criteria, such work areas started being identified and handled as separate units. Along the way, professional outsourcing firms emerged to take on the responsibility and even provide better results as a result of their focus and proficiency.

As volumes grew, along with pressure on expensive downtown real estate, outsourced units started being moved away from these prime locations into less expensive ones, keeping in mind work requirements along with availability of manpower. Outsourced units continued to be placed further and further away from the ‘client’ units to get the benefits of cheaper real estate and manpower availability till we reached the nineties when commercial use of the internet freed outsourcing from the shackles of being located within a certain geographical area or distance and gave rise to offshoring.

A feature of outsourcing is that work tends to flow from what we know as a more ‘developed’ economy to a ‘less’ developed one as there are cost saving opportunities to be had. Till the time outsourcing was bound by physical distances and boundaries, work that was being outsourced, was probably being done not too far away. Being one of the more ‘developed’ economies in its neck of the woods, Egypt was not suitable for any BPO work that may have been generated by its neighbors. It might actually have been in a position to outsource work to its neighbors. However, once the geographical limitations were taken off, Egypt was able to get into the game.

Being the biggest economy in the world, a lot of the initial traffic was generated by the US. The initial beneficiaries for locating BPO business were countries like India and the Philippines whose large English-speaking populations could handle the requirements which were mostly in English. Not only for the US but other smaller, ‘developed’ economies like the UK, Australia and Canada, all primarily English-speaking nations. Soon the practice was adopted by other Western European nations, putting Egypt outsourcing firmly center-stage.

 

Political stability

Political developments over the last decade would have caused uncertainty and turmoil in a relatively new Egypt outsourcing industry. While a long-time ruler does present a veneer of stability, it appears to be a case of ‘all may not have been well under the veneer’ as the situation unravelled in 2011 with the Arab Spring uprising. The junta that took over power eventually yielded to elections that paved the way for the current President as-Sisi to take over the reigns of power.

Business needs a stable and predictable political climate to flourish. Investment decisions are based on long-term prospects. Frequent governance changes are likely to keep investors away as they are bound to be concerned about the safety and viability of their investments. Hence, for business to flourish, or indeed any activity, an enabling, stable political environment is a necessity. Recognizing this truism, Egypt has invested in improving the telecommunications infrastructure that drives the internet and also created economic zones with a supporting environment for technology companies.

oWorkers respects local decision-making and hopes for political stability in all regions of the world, necessary for mitigating human misery and improvement in quality of life. Our Cairo center is an important cog in our BPO wheel and we are hopeful it will continue to grow and create opportunities in the local economy.

 

Business-friendly economic policies that support Egypt outsourcing

Though we have discussed political stability, which is no doubt a pre-requisite, business organizations, apart from a transparent law and order mechanism, are interested in the economic environment where there is stability and consistency, encourages businesses to operate with freedom, without the fear of sudden changes that could jeopardize their business and investments.

Proof of the pudding being in the eating, more than the speeches of political and business leaders, large, widely known companies like Google and IBM operating from Egypt over several years is a sign of confidence to other, smaller players as well. Physically located at civilizational crossroads, Egypt is viewed as a gateway to Europe, Africa and West Asia and a potential hub for technology and business process services.

oWorkers operates from the capital city and main urban agglomeration of Cairo, from the Maadi area which is well known as the best business location in the city. As recently as 2019, Cairo has been identified as one of the top-ranked worldwide outsourcing destinations according to AT Kearney & Tholons.

 

Client accessibility

BPO work tends to flow from locations that are advanced on the development scale to locations that are less so. The major demand for BPO services continues to emanate from North America and Western Europe, with an effort at reducing processing costs while gaining access to a larger talent pool.

While telecommunications technology does drive the business to all corners of the globe, the importance of physical oversight and a touch-and-feel, even though it may be occasional, cannot be overstated. Clients also need to ensure that the processing activities being done by a vendor do not mar the brand in any manner. Hence, physical proximity of the provider does become a factor in many deals.

Egypt outsourcing companies like oWorkers are located in close proximity to one of their major client markets, that of Western Europe. No major European capital is more than a 5-hour flight away from Cairo.

 

Egypt outsourcing companies can access a large, qualified labor pool

While a supporting environment and infrastructure is essential for any activity, in case of BPO, once the basics are aligned, technology and human resources are the two main factors in continuing success of the business.

With its status as a progressive society in the region, and with an established education infrastructure, Egypt has drawn youngsters from neighboring societies for higher education and work opportunities. Its annual outturn of 500,000 graduates provides a unique growth opportunity to the industry to scale up operations. Taking the 100 million population into account as well, Egypt has the wherewithal to challenge the hegemony of established providers like India and the Philippines.

oWorkers establishes ties in the communities it works with and strives to achieve the status of a preferred employer. Cairo is no different. Known as a fair employer with transparent work policies, we attract a lot of footfall from interested jobseekers that gives us access to a perennial talent pool. All our staff are employees, not freelancers. We pay social taxes for our employees and have been rated above 4.6/5 consistently on Glassdoor.

 

Multilingual capability

As businesses around the world have acquired scale, the need for multilingual processing has expanded. When a business expands and comes into contact with regions that use other languages, it does not want to go looking for another provider to handle that requirement. It would like a partner that can support its growth. Besides, global ambitions of businesses are rising, not reducing.  

Egypt BPO providers can dip into a large workforce of talent with capability in a wide variety of languages. Apart from the ubiquitous English, graduate studies with the language of study being either French or German is quite common. As is the language of study being Spanish, Turkish or Italian. Russian and Chinese speakers are also available. Other languages include Farsi, Greek, Siamese, Hebrew, Urdu, Korean, Japanese and Czech.

Being a provider to multinational organizations from around the world, multilingual capability remains a key element of oWorkers’ BPO proposition with Cairo being an integral part of it, with its ability to cater to a large cross-section of global languages.

 

Internet and Telecommunications

Apart from human resources, technology is the other key driver of this industry. The rapid advances in telecommunications technology has been the catalyst for the growth that has taken the industry to the far corners of the world and brought millions of people into the fold of the connected world.

With the introduction of 4G technology in the country and investments in upgrading to fiber optic cabling, the government is keen to position Egypt as a ‘digital canal’ perhaps as a reference to the Suez Canal that connects Europe to Asia as a shipping route. With greater reliance on the internet, like for example during the Covid-19 induced lockdowns, telecommunications infrastructure can only get better, making the industry backbone more supple.

Like other Egypt outsourcing providers, oWorkers relies on the improving network to connect with the world and offer its services. The Communications and Information Technology ministry has said that it is investing USD 1.6 bn to improve internet speed, with the aim of reaching 40 mbps by the end of 2021. In addition, we operate from secure facilities and protocols for your data security with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).

 

Time Zone in which Egypt BPO operates

The sun rises and sets in different parts of the world at different times, driving our circadian rhythms. With BPO work being done from all corners of the globe, time zones become a factor in choosing a provider.

Providers enjoy the benefit of being present in a time zone that is fairly closely aligned with its major markets in Western Europe. This allows for ease in handling real-time work, customer calls for instance, or social media moderation, the bulk of which is likely to arise during daytime hours, which are similar on both the client and the provider side.

Of course, BPO providers have long shown the commitment to operate night shifts to handle client work, if that adds value.

Sharing its time zone with Bulgaria, Estonia, South Africa, Finland, Greece, Romania, and others, oWorkers in Egypt operates on East European Time (EET), which is UTC + 2 (with the offset for Daylight Savings). This permits smooth daytime operations for Western European clients as well as clients from West Asia. Of course, oWorkers also offers 24×7 processing facilities, should there be a client need.

 

Operating Cost and Infrastructure

Like for like, Egypt could be offering the best value to clients. It has been gradually rising the Ease of Doing Business index published by the World Bank since the turmoil of 2011. Coupled with the availability of resources at a cost lower than many locations in India, attrition rates that are much lower for comparable projects in India, education levels that require only moderate investments in training and skilling, Egypt BPO becomes an irresistible combination.

Transport in Cairo comprises an extensive road network, rail system, subway system and maritime services for the more than 15.2 million inhabitants of the city.

oWorkers operates from a digitally and physically secure facility in the Maadi area of Cairo.  Our BPO services company offers cost savings of up to 80 %, without compromising on quality, as advised by some of our clients.

We are a company specializing in data services and have been ranked among the Top 3 in the world.

With a management team that has a cumulative experience of over 20 years, with oWorkers you engage a provider that will enable you to get the benefits of working from a center located in the center of the world, within easy reach from any part on any side.

Guide to Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing

Guide to Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing

Guide to Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing

 

Where in the world?

This might well be the question asked by an outsourcer today, wherever he is, while trying to identify a suitable location for outsourcing his business processes to.

Thanks to advances in telecommunications technology, he has the whole world available to him for his business.

Developments in telephony, fiber optics, satellite communications and widespread use of the Internet, made Internet-based communication and transfer of data possible, paving the path for carrying voice and data cheaply over long distances, leading to the opening up of outsourcing opportunities from anywhere to anywhere and the development and growth of global outsourcing locations distributed across the world.

There has been an evolution at each stage of development.

Primary focus on getting away from the high-cost economies of the West and process in an economical manner, in a place providing much lower labor cost, gave way to process improvements which moved to the phase of BPO centers showing the path to delivery excellence, eventually moving on to innovation and flexibility.

The nature of processes outsourced has also kept evolving. Labor-intensive, repetitive processes like data-entry and medical transcription were the first to be outsourced. As confidence grew and telecom costs kept coming down, it gave way to transaction processing and Call Centre activities, evolving to more complex tasks like F&A, HRO and Legal which could be defined in terms of some rules, but also required exercise of some thinking on part of the processor.

Of course, developments in the world have also led to changes in the mix of services being outsourced. Ecommerce was perhaps not even a gleam in anyone’s eyes when BPO started, but today data-entry and other support services for ecommerce businesses is a large component of BPO work. As is data labeling and annotation for creating training data for the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) models.

Structure of companies and the contracts they sign has also kept evolving. The early captive centers were an extension of the parent and did not require too much contract negotiation or specification of processes. As the business evolved, the need to define measures through which the contract would be measured became apparent. Contracts started becoming detailed and complex. The initial FTE based deals, defining work outsourced in terms of people employed, gradually started giving way to output based deals where compensation would be based on the amount of work done. The industry has also experimented with outcome or result based deals.

Of course, some things don’t change. Cost reduction is still an objective. Data-entry work is still being done, perhaps for different businesses and for different requirements.

Even though telecommunication has made it possible for your work to be done from anywhere, the choice of a partner and location continues to be an important business decision.

 

The rise of Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing industry

With an area of a little over 100,000 sq. km., population around 7 million and monthly gross wage of Euro 650, Bulgaria is an unlikely contender in the BPO stakes, traditionally dominated by locations with a large population, multiple urban centers and low wages.

But it has emerged strongly with advantages that outweigh what on the surface may be limitations. Its membership of the EU creates a regulatory environment that inspires confidence in investors as well as clients’ evaluation location options. With well established civic systems like power supply and transportation, it has no hidden costs, unlike other places where businesses need to cater to diesel-based electricity generating units and transporting staff to and from work. It has a well established and proven educational system which delivers a workforce of a quality far higher than many others.

Its accessibility in terms of travel time from major European capitals as well as time zone displacement from the farthest reaches of the continent, make it a preferred destination for clients who have a need for physical contact, even if it is occasional.

It is now an important contributor to the economy, paying EUR 30.5 million in taxes in 2019, 2.5% of all taxes paid. And the contribution is growing in percentage and value terms.

 

BPO location – making a choice

Choosing a place for locating a business or service is a normal business decision. As an outsourcer, you need to ensure that the outsourcing decision adds value to the business, like any other decision you take for the business.

With BPO being a global business, while it provides you with plenty of choices, it also makes the decision more complex. What are the factors that might be relevant when you choose a location which will become the primary delivery point for a process that is a part of your business?

Political Environment

The governance and political climate of a nation is where the other sectors take cues from. Stability and transparency in decision-making at the governance level is important for a business to develop the confidence to invest. It is difficult for a business to make an investment decision based on a certain set of regulations if it has experienced that the rules keep changing on the whim of the person or persons in power.

oWorkers operates in a free, transparent, competitive environment provided by Bulgaria and the same is available to clients who can be free from concerns of exploitation and other practices, especially with respect to human resources, when they partner with us.

Freedom House, a non-profit that rates nations on their level of freedom, rates Bulgaria as a ‘free’ state with a score of 78 out of 100 in the latest evaluation. Among major BPO destinations, this is one of the highest scores, perhaps second only to Poland, also in the EU. A few comments from the Freedom in the World 2021’ report:

‘The authorities generally respect constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly.’

‘Bulgaria’s judiciary has benefited from legal and institutional reforms associated with EU membership, but it is still prone to politicization.’

‘Bulgaria’s democratic system holds competitive elections and has seen several transfers of power in recent decades.’ 

Economics and Business

Since we are talking about businesses, the economic situation perhaps is second only to the political environment when suitability of a location needs to be evaluated. Like the political environment, the economic environment needs to be governed by policies that are stable and transparent for private businesses to get confidence to invest, along with a system of governance considered fair.  

Bulgaria has a Real GDP Annual Growth Rate of 3.4% and GDP per capita of Euro 8809. Being integrated into the European economy ensures consistency and transparency for Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing providers like oWorkers who can operate with confidence. Foreign exchange risks are limited with the currency being pegged to the Euro. With flat 10% corporate and personal income taxes, Bulgaria, without doubt, offers the lowest operating costs in the region.

Human resource availability

Being a people dependent industry, this is clearly a key variable to evaluate. Also, because of reasons good and bad, attrition is a feature that the industry has to contend with, requiring a continuous flow of fresh resources.

According to the AIBEST Annual Report 2020, outsourcing employed more than 77,950 people at the end of 2019, 67% being in Bulgaria BPO centers.

‘Approximately 80% of the working-age population has secondary or higher education, above the EU average. In 2019, there were 51,460 university and college graduates and Mathematics Informatics Gold Silver Bronze over 18,500 of them could be suitable employees for the sourcing industry.’

oWorkers pays competitive wages to attract qualified candidates for whom working in a BPO is an attractive option as the industry salary is higher than the average in the country and ensures a good standard of living.

Resource Cost

Related to resource availability is the issue of cost at which resources become available to Bulgaria BPO providers, and the compensating features of that wage variance. If resources are more expensive, are they also more able that will create value in delivery and offset some of the training costs? In addition, one needs to also factor in the cost to acquire and retain that resource. In other words, is a lot of effort required to attract the right talent? Effort will translate to cost, and the greater the effort the greater the cost.

According to the AIBEST Annual Report 2020, in 2019, Bulgaria had the lowest average hourly labour cost across the EU, based on Eurostat data. It stood at EUR 6.0, or more than four times lower than the EU28 average of EUR 27.7. The gross monthly wage in Bulgaria is Euro 650. With its center located in Plovdiv, oWorkers offers a wage advantage of at least 30% over the capital Sofia.

Telecommunications Network

Telecommunications is the lubricant that has oiled the wheels of the BPO industry and allowed it to expand to the far corners of the world. Bulgaria BPO industry cannot be different. Even though it is almost a given in today’s context, from a business perspective we still need to tick the boxes and satisfy ourselves that the available infrastructure will meet business needs.

With a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, with broadband speeds among the fastest in SEE (South Eastern Europe) and the third fastest mobile Internet speed in Europe, oWorkers services are based on this reliable, modern network that connects to the world. In addition, as the center operates within the overarching EU legislation, our information security and privacy regulations are compliant with Eurozone requirements.

Time Zone

Different time zones are followed in different locations around the world. Being in a different time zone could be a bane or a boon depending on the context. Being in a time zone with a large difference from the client might enable speedier, overnight processing. On the flip side, requiring staff to work off hours in the BPO center might be a difficult task and also more expensive as ‘off hours’ and ‘overtime pay’ components may kick in.

oWorkers in Bulgaria is on East European Time (EET), which is UTC + 2 and shared with Estonia, Finland, Greece, South Africa, Romania and several others. It enables daytime coverage of the entire set of clients from anywhere in Europe with an offset of only two hours.

Physical proximity

As owners of a process that is being handled by a provider, it is perfectly acceptable for the client to want to ‘touch and feel’ the processing center and interact with the people doing their work to ensure it is being done the right way and to instil the values and ethos of the brand in the people who are working for it. Though advances in communication technologies have substantially reduced the need for physical movement, either of people or of artefacts, between the originating and the processing locations, it cannot be said to have been eliminated.

The Bulgaria BPO facility of oWorkers being only a 3 hour flight away from the farthest corners of the European continent will be a comfort for many clients. Lisbon, London and Oslo would perhaps be the farthest which are approximately 3 hours of flying time away. Moreover, in an increasingly jittery world that needs to react to real or perceived dangers, where occasional stoppage of flights is a possibility, there are multiple options of travel that are available, mainly train and road, as they are essentially different parts of the same continent.

Education and Training; Workforce readiness

There are many facets to being a people-driven industry, not just related to availability of manpower and hiring. An equally important aspect is the readiness of the workforce to deliver in a BPO environment that may require not only foundation skills like communication, language and handling  computer applications, but also function-specific ones like HR and Accounting and even industry-specific like Insurance, Banking and Retail. Though BPOs have training programs that enable people to deliver on client projects, the larger the gap, the greater the investment required in skilling. Hence, it is desirable that employees come with basic knowledge and skills.

A well-established education system, regarded highly for the quality of students it produces, especially in the mathematics and science areas, provides Bulgaria BPO providers like oWorkers with raw talent of a very high quality which only needs polishing on domain-specific areas to become ready for work. Sofia University even offers a Masters’ program titled “Outsourcing Project and Companies” designed for the industry. This is a unique academic program that much larger outsourcing destinations have not been able to create and demonstrates Bulgaria’s commitment to the sector.

Multilingual capability

Proficiency in language holding the key to communication, being multilingual expands the possibilities of communication. In any case, with global footprints of many businesses, the expectation is that a provider will be able to support, regardless of language.

oWorkers is one of the Bulgaria BPO companies that has leveraged the educated and skilled manpower, with its proficiency in languages, where even trilingualism is not uncommon, to offer services in multiple languages. On an aggregated basis, Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing companies offer services in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Japanese, Norwegian, Danish, Hebrew, Serbian, Slovak, Croatian, Finnish, Korean, Estonian, Hindi, Bosnian, Catalan, Lithuanian, Macedonian and Slovenian.

Physical infrastructure

Infrastructure required for running a business can be of various kinds. Like power, which is the most time-critical resource for a business to run and required for running any sort of equipment, whether it is a PC, or a fan, or lighting, even most of the telecommunications equipment. Adequacy and continuity of power grid power needs to be ascertained. Or local transport, required for not only the business to operate but also employees to commute to and from work when working out of a physical facility.

Bulgaria’s electricity prices for industrial consumers, at EUR 0.11 per kWh, the average electricity price, including taxes and levies, are much lower than the EUR 0.15 per kWh for EU-28. With an efficient distribution system in place, it is one less worry for Bulgaria BPO management as compared to many other centers around the world.

Urban centers like Sofia and Plovdiv, the second largest city where oWorkers facilities are situated, have good transport access accounting for more than 90% of the planned office developments. Moreover, Plovdiv, features one of the lowest Class A office rents in SEE. Almost all the 535,000 people in Plovdiv live less than 30 minutes away from the city center.

 

oWorkers and Plovdiv – a winning combination

As a Bulgaria BPO services company, with a management team that has a cumulative experience of over 20 years, with oWorkers you engage a provider that will enable you to get the benefits of working from a center located in the Eurozone, one of the most developed parts of the world, of stable governance, consistent policies, established infrastructure and high levels of education and skill.

The benefits multiply with our choice of Plovdiv, the second largest city as the location for our center with the upside staying consistent but the downside in terms of costs being lower by at least 20%, which get passed on to clients.

Plovdic has 9 universities with more than 30,000 students, a third of whom are pursuing courses in IT & BPO related fields such as Information and Computer technologies, Business Management and Administration, Language Studies and Finance & Accounting. It also has 29 vocational schools, 37 general high schools and 7 foreign language and math high schools, 78 vocational training centers and 10 applied science institutes and labs.

Easily reachable via road, Plovdiv has its own airport and railway station. The distance to Bulgaria’s main airport in Sofia is 140 km.

With such a supporting environment, it is no surprise that oWorkers is one of 74 sourcing companies located in the Plovdiv District.

Fundamentals of an Operational Optimization

Fundamentals of an Operational Optimization

Fundamentals of an Operational Optimization

They say that you need to get down into the trenches to fight a battle. It cannot be done merely making strategy in a safe war-room. It is great, and important, to make strategy, to plan, and a lot of very able and experienced people do that, but at some point someone needs to go beyond and fire a bullet, hammer a nail, till the soil, whatever, if any results are to be expected. Merely making strategy and thinking about possible actions will not go very far.

The same is the case with operational optimization.

It is a great idea. Every business leader is not only aware of it, but also buys into it. They are all aware that in a competitive world, it needs to be a continuous process. Everyone in the business should be thinking about it all the time, because their competitors are also doing it.

But eventually, after all the ideating and sermonizing and strategizing is done, it needs to be done.

There are some areas which have been found relevant by many BPOs, as areas that with some focus are capable of delivering enhanced performance. These could benefit the client if specific to a project, or could benefit the supplier, or, as is most likely the case, both. In a partnership, benefits realized by one often spill over to the other. Perhaps true for hindrances as well.

In order that you do not miss the low hanging fruit, not from the ease of benefit realization perspective but more from the perspective of knowing where to look, 8 such areas have been identified and listed in this article.

oWorkers is committed to its niche of data entry services in the BPO space. It is identified as one of the top 3 providers of data services in the world. With expertise gathered over 8 years, it has been working with over a hundred clients and looking for opportunities to make improvements in extant processes. 

Higher customer satisfaction (or experience) score

Customer satisfaction is the holy grail for any business that interfaces with customers. And that means all. A business needs to have customers for it to be one. Often, BPO partners also interact directly with customers. In fact, in some cases the partner perhaps handles a lot more customer interface than the client whose customers they are, particularly when customer interface channels like Call Centers have been outsourced to suppliers. Improving the customer experience has to be a primary variable for any operational optimization envisaged by a company.

Whoever does the interface, customer satisfaction is in everyone’s interest. When he sang “Everything I do, I do it for you,” Bryan Adams may have had amorous intent. However, a business could just as easily sing the same song for its customers without changing a word. They are the reason for their existence, survival and (hopefully) prosperity.

Regardless of the type of measure deployed, with the two most common ones being Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT and Net Promoter Score (NPS), the objective has to be to enhance satisfaction and reduce dissatisfaction.

An NPS survey is usually done at a point of contact or transaction while a CSAT survey is an aggregate that is done periodically. Some companies believe surveys are subject to human bias, of the customer in this case, and prefer to use objective data points like repeat contacts made by a customer if she is calling in, to assess how long it took to resolve the issue. The fewer the contacts, the quicker the resolution.

The key is to establish a baseline measure that is suitable for you, carrying it out repeatedly, identifying the variables that impact scores, to the extent possible, and working on them for resolution.

Reduction in customer dissatisfaction and complaints

Reducing dissatisfaction is at least as important as enhancing satisfaction because in a competitive world, customers often ‘vote with their feet.’ They have no responsibility for telling you what they are dissatisfied about and simply get up and walk away to your competitor, without you ever knowing what went wrong or what you could have done better.

Also, a disengaged customer is perhaps less interested in providing feedback to the company if requested, as compared to a still-interested customer. Hence, it is possible that CSAT and NPS surveys report an inaccurately high positive picture drawn from them. 

Some companies make an extra effort to surface customer dissatisfaction with the objective of identifying them early and heading off the point at which the customer ‘votes with her feet.’ Before she reaches that point, she is likely to have gone through stages where she was perhaps still trying to seek resolution but the responses she received kept pushing her towards the exit door.

While customer dissatisfaction scores are important, some companies, in the belief that these could be biased, try to base their efforts on objective data like customer complaints. Their operational optimization efforts rely on a detailed analysis of customer complaints combined with monitoring trends to ensure they are headed in the right direction.

oWorkers has been trusted by several unicorn marketplaces with their operations. In addition, a large section of our clients are technology companies. This also keeps us on our toes and ensures we deploy the best technologies available.

Reduction in idle time

Idle time could be defined as the time, or duration of time, when paid resources are not engaged in activities that contribute to their assigned work. It could be on account of inadequate work in the queue, it could be because the process is setup in a manner that waiting cannot be avoided, or it could even be a consciously provided idle time in order to prevent resource burnout, especially in repetitive tasks.

Leaving aside conscious idle time, the company will benefit from a reduction in all other forms of idle time. It could be through a tweak of the process sequence or it could be through updated load balancing, as this is time already paid for, without additional cost there is an opportunity of getting additional units produced.

oWorkers works on an employee model, and not a freelancer model. Though it creates the responsibility for managing the careers and growth of staff, it provides us greater flexibility in terms of deployment, helping us review measures like idle time and take steps to keep them in check. With our deep connections in local communities, we are able to offer just-in-time hiring to clients, enabling them to minimize idle resources during lean periods.

Enhancement of output for operational optimization

Doing more with the same, doing the same with less and doing more with less are the eternal mantras of all organizations that are the surrogate variables that enable the organization to move towards its goal of maximization of profit.

Enhancement of output is a key variable, since business is about producing a product or service that gets purchased by a client and generates a revenue stream that goes towards meeting costs as well as profit. If there is no revenue, there is no business. And revenue is an aggregate of products and services sold.

The more the number of units of output, the greater the revenue, and consequently profit, opportunity. As we have discussed elsewhere, this enhancement has to ensure that nothing else changes, or changes only within defined parameters. If you are hiring more people or buying more equipment for increasing output, then it is an expansion, not an improvement or optimization play. But, enhancing output without increasing production costs is an improvement that we should all strive for.

With a culturally diverse team across its three centers, oWorkers offers support in over 22 global languages and works with clients to explore output enhancement options on a continuous basis.

Employment of fewer resources

Operational optimization through deployment of fewer resources is like a mirror image of output enhancement. In terms of units produced per unit of cost or investment it would perhaps achieve similar results. If today we produce 100 units at a cost of $25 per unit, we might try to improve that to a lower number, as would be the case with production enhancement with the same cost structure.

The deployment strategy would depend on the other variables in the mix. Is there a demand for the enhanced production? Are additional resources available at similar or lower costs? Does the company have cash available to invest in more equipment?

Of course, better than producing more with the same and producing same with less would be producing more with less. All options should be kept open. Eventually all roads that lead to the attainment of the goals of the business should be kept open and paved and free from any potholes that could slow us down.

oWorkers is GDPR compliant and ISO ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified. This makes our processes sharp and ensures we don’t carry fat in any part of our operations.

Shorter training duration

Joined at the hip with hiring in a BPO is training. There is usually an almost continuous working of the hiring machinery that keeps providing fodder for the training machinery that smoothens the rough edges and produces diamonds that step out and deliver on client processes and projects.

Though some may argue that it is dependent on the hiring machinery and does not have control over its destiny, others might disagree and argue that any process that needs to be performed as a conscious effort, and involves people, has opportunity for review and improvement. The training process in a BPO is no different.

For the many BPOs that provide training to new hires at their own (the company’s) cost, each minute spent in training is a cost. Hence, if they can find ways of providing the same quality of inputs in a shorter duration of time, it will again contribute towards the end goals of the company.

E-learning technologies have emerged as likely saviours of training teams, equipping them with tools through which they can do more with less. After an initial investment in creating the automated content, e-learning could provide a quick payback in terms of saved trainer time and physical classroom space, leading to operational optimization.

Many clients have reported savings of upto 80% over their pre-outsourcing costs. With the help of initiatives like a close monitoring of training duration, we are able to keep costs reasonable and share the benefits with our clients.

Reduction of manpower attrition

Attrition in the industry has often been compared to a leaking bucket. All efforts at shoring up manpower resources come to nought as the resource bucket the hiring team is trying to fill up has many leaks. Resources keep leaking out of this bucket through attrition, often faster than the hiring tap is filling it.

Of course, it varies from company to company, process to process and location to location. Numerous attempts have been made by the employers to find the root cause and characteristics for it that could enable them to take corrective steps and continue to be made. Do female employees have higher attrition than male? Do graduates attrite more than non-graduates? Do people who need to travel far have a higher tendency to leave as compared to people who live close to the workplace? Is attrition based on the management style of individual team leaders? Is the nature of the client project a determinant in attrition levels? Do centers in big cities face higher attrition than those in smaller towns?

Companies have been trying to answer these questions with a view to taking strategic decisions in order to have a favorable impact on attrition numbers. Attrition is a significant cost. Not only in terms of resources expended in the hiring process, but also in training them. In addition, possibly lower quality delivered at the start by new hires could also be considered as a cost to the business.

Over a period of time, some companies have reached the conclusion that while lower is obviously better, it is a fact of the industry and needs to be managed. Hence, some of them focus on reducing the cost impact caused by attrition and not necessarily the actual number of people leaving. Early go-live and a higher component of performance-based salary have been experimented with by some organizations. As are efforts at setting clear expectations at the time of hiring, which was not always done as the hiring team is goaled on the quantity and speed of hires.

Though oWorkers has been best-in-class as far as attrition is concerned, it leaves no stone unturned to match hiring to client requirements to ensure processes are not adversely impacted at a later stage due to incorrect hiring and attrition. It employs a variety of tools, including emotional and psychometric assessments, to identify the right resources.

Reduction of wait time for operational optimization

Wait time is the time a transaction needs to wait in a holding queue before it is picked up for processing. It does not necessarily apply only to inanimate transactions that typically sit in a queue. It equally applies to a customer who calls in but needs to wait in a queue before the next agent becomes available.

Reduction of a customer’s wait time in a holding queue can positively impact the customer experience.

Reduction of a transaction’s wit time in the processing queue could enhance the efficiency of the overall process and might also impact the customer experience if the output needs to go back to the customer.

Essentially, wait time reduction relies on the ability of the provider to forecast volumes reasonably accurately and set up the service arrangements to match those volume flows. Product mix can change, as can consumer behavior, and service technology. Hence, processes need to be reviewed with a pair of fresh eyes and perspective for identifying opportunities of wait time reduction.

The 20 years plus hands-on experience of our leadership team comes in handy whether it is reducing wait time or any other initiative that helps the company achieve its goals.

The oWorkers advantage

The Quality team of oWorkers is an independent team that reports directly to senior management. Not only does that keep senior management informed about developments on the shopfloor, it also enables the Quality team to keep a check on the output of the delivery team. It leads and guides all improvement initiatives undertaken in oWorkers and is staffed with experts on various quality systems.

8 process optimization techniques: How to get started

8 process optimization techniques: How to get started

8 process optimization techniques: How to get started

A process is understood to refer to a series of steps designed to lead to a particular end or goal, in the common language sense of the term. 

In an organization, ‘process’ is used in almost identical fashion, and collectively signifies the sequence that needs to be gone through, or actions that need to be performed, to move from the starting point to the ending point, of that process, not necessarily of the entire product or service.

An organization is perpetually in the throes of trying to achieve something, because that something or the many somethings give it the reason for its existence. As an artificial entity, if it is not delivering or doing what it was created for, there would be no point in it existing. At any given point of time there are numerous processes in motion simultaneously.

Need to set up a meeting with the Finance Head? You need to reach out. Either offer your available slots or ask the Finance Head for the same? The other person then checks and confirms one. It is a process.

A new employee has been hired and needs to be onboarded. The identified HR resource will take the new hire through the onboarding process that will familiarize her with the company and enable her to function better. It is a process.

One of the clients has called in to report an issue being faced with your company’s SaaS solution that they had purchased. You will be logging it with the technical team. Based on priority allocated, they will take it up for investigation and resolution. They will implement the change that is required, through a process, and confirm to you. You will confirm to the client. It is a process.

In a way everything is a process.

But how did they come about? Who set them up?

The answer to this lies in the reason for the existence of the business that is being served by these processes. The big goal is well defined, that of making money, by engaging in a certain kind of work or activity. However, making money is not something that can be done. It is an outcome or resultant. Effort of various kinds needs to be put in so that the end goals might be realized. By breaking down objectives into distinct steps that need to be performed, we end up with processes. When referred to in the context of a business, they are also referred to as business processes.

Method, system, procedure, workflow are some of the other terms that are used in place of process.

What is optimization?

Optimization is the term used for the action of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource.

Read together, process optimization is the action that seeks to run a process in the most effective manner possible to equip the organization such that it has a better chance of achieving its goals. It is also often referred to as improvement or continuous improvement in different organizations. A slightly broader term used in a similar context is quality or total quality.

Despite providing best in class pricing and services, like the ability to ramp by a hundred resources in 48 hours, like pricing that enables clients to shave off almost 80% of their pre-outsourcing costs, oWorkers comes packed with a slew of resources adept at identifying and delivering improvement initiatives for client projects.

Process optimization techniques

We just learned that all planned activities in a company are processes that exist with the objective of facilitating the achievement of its goals.

If all work in a company is done through processes, then even process optimization, a process that seeks to make other processes more efficient, must be managed as a process.

Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere. But merely an idea is not enough until it is implemented. The process of implementation requires discipline and acceptance. While an individual or solo entrepreneur might go about bringing about change in her own defined way, larger organizations place their trust in time-trusted processes that have been built through the effort of many before them.

Man’s need for striving and doing better has resulted in the evolution of many standards and process optimization techniques that are now widely used around the world. Most of them evolved with manufacturing, which is where most business processes were run, and have only in the last few decades begun to be applied to processes in service industries as they have continued to acquire scale. An overview of some of the more common ones is provided here:

 

1. Customer Operation Performance Center (COPC)

Another adherent to the elimination of waste philosophy. It is a collection of many standards governing performance of different types of organizations, like Vendor Management, Outsourced Service Provider, Healthcare Service Provider, etc.

It is almost like an overarching management philosophy that seeks to guide operations every step of the way, with a lot of emphasis on data collection. For OSPs, the framework evaluates benefits in terms of cost savings, revenue gains, performance gains and intangible benefits.

2. Six Sigma

Six Sigma has come to represent the philosophy of continuous improvement and is widely followed in service industries around the world.

Six Sigma is a statistical concept originally used in manufacturing. A process was said to be operating at six sigma levels of quality if it kept defects to under 3.4 for every million units produced. It is a data-driven technique that seeks to drive out variations in the process so that customers get a predictable experience.

3. International Standards Organization (ISO)

ISO is a private non-profit headquartered in Geneva whose mission is to promote the development of standardization. In order to keep pace with changing times they have introduced a number of quality management systems like ISO 9000:2005, ISO 9000:2008, ISO 9004:2009

It seeks to document elements needed to operate a quality system and follow the documentation. It focuses on customer satisfaction, meeting regulatory requirements and achieving improvement.

It can be applied to any industry. More than 160 nations are members of ISO.

4. Kaizen

A number of quality standards and improvement methodologies developed in Japan during the period after the second world war when it was trying to come out of the devastation of that war. Kaizen is one such. ‘Kai’ stands for change and ‘Zen’ for good. The Kaizen philosophy seeks to bring about change for the better.

The core beliefs of the philosophy are:

  • Good processes bring good results
  • Manage with data and facts
  • Big results come from small changes, over time
  • Correct the root cause, the rest will follow

5. Lean

The Lean methodology seeks to promote a culture of continuous improvement. Its focus is the elimination of all non-value-adding activities throughout the entire process chain.

Some common examples of waste that Lean might focus on: Overproduction, Waiting time, Transportation, Scrap, Rework and Inspection.

It promotes techniques for running a process such that waste can be eliminated.

6. People Capability Maturity Model (PCMM)

PCMM, modelled on CMM (Capability Maturity Model) has become a useful tool in the services world, with its focus on people and their development. With a battle raging for attracting the best resources, PCMM establishes a program for continuous development of the workforce, with integrated process improvement, and enables adopting organizations to become preferred employers. It focuses on institutionalization of change and introduces practices that are repeatable and measurable, eventually leading to a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. It covers a wide variety of process areas, Training and Development, Compensation, Career Development, to name a few.

7. DMAIC

DMAIC stands for the Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control sequence of steps that this technique proposes.

It continues to be one of the most popular techniques adopted by organizations for their optimization initiatives. It does not need linkages with any steps in the past or future. It can be implemented as an independent set of steps for any change the organization seeks to bring about.

It can be used as a standalone or in conjunction with other standards like Six Sigma.

8. PDCA

PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act and is another popular technique used in many companies for process optimization. The process takes followers through the following sequence:

P

Plan

Establish objectives and method to be followed

D

Do

Implement the plan. Collect data before and after implementation.

C

Check

Study data and review results.

A

Act

Bake the new method into the regular processes or initiate another PDCA cycle till you reach goals.

One can do repeated cycles of PDCA and keep modifying the methodology as one learns more.

With the support of an independent Quality team, oWorkers stands shoulder to shoulder with its clients in the quality journey, constantly searching for areas where process optimization techniques could be implemented to achieve improvement. It consists of people adept at several of the techniques and are goaled on the improvement they are able to bring about.

 

The starting point

Whatever be the methodology adopted by the company to achieve its goals, the starting point is always a challenge.

Is it more valuable to improve customer satisfaction or should we focus on bringing down the cost of delivery?

Would reduction of cycle time deliver great benefits to the client or should we first work on reducing our training period?

While benchmarks can be used, like comparison against competitors on key parameters, or financial performance of the company over several years, it eventually boils down to the understanding of the business by the leadership team. They may need to take a call on the focus area so that real work can begin.

With a leadership that has 20 years of hands-on experience in the industry, our senior management is well placed to identify areas that could do with some improvement.

Process optimization techniques – measuring benefits

The primary goal of a company being to make money for its owners is well known and understood. That it is sought to be achieved through a specific area of work is also well known and understood. It, therefore, follows that the primary benefit that is to be delivered through the application of process optimization techniques should be to improve the bottomline.

Different companies operate at different scales and levels of complexity. There could be an entrepreneur who provides fresh food to migrant workers who might be working alone. There could be a global financial institution operating in 50 countries with a workforce of over 100,000 employees. Process optimization holds value for both.

In the case of the entrepreneur, at this stage of her business, it is likely that complexity is limited and the impact of any single action is visible on the Income Statement. If she hires a person to deliver the food, she can immediately see the profit reducing. But, in a few days, if her orders have gone up as a result, she can also conclude that it was perhaps due to the additional service she is now offering. Hence, for a small business, it might be possible to quantify the benefit in terms of the impact on the bottomline.

In case of global behemoths like global financial institutions or technology companies or car makers, it becomes more difficult to trace each impact to the bottomline. How does a person who sells mutual funds to target customers in a branch in Accra in Ghana, see the impact of his actions on the Income Statement of the company? His contribution perhaps passes through so many levels of consolidation that it loses its color by the time it gets vomited on an Income Statement. Besides, even if visible, it will be lost on the rounding off that invariably must happen in consolidating numbers. Similarly, the process of Credit Card collections in Buenos Aires in Argentina cannot realistically see the impact of their actions on the Balance Sheet.

So, are these contributions not important? Should they be ignored?

Quite to the contrary, if the institution is big today it is only because of the combined result of thousands of such people and processes. They are the pillars on which its success stands.

This is where surrogate variables become useful; variables that can be used as interim measures as a representative of the real or final variable. Surrogate variables are what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of a vast number of people are based on and similar KPIs can be used as surrogate variables to measure the benefits of the impact of the application of process optimization techniques.

To ensure that we are always looking for opportunities to do things better, oWorkers works with clients in identifying a bunch of different such surrogate variables that add value to either the client or oWorker business, or both. Some of the improvement areas we have targeted are listed below:

  • Higher customer satisfaction score
  • Reduction in cycle time
  • Enhancement of output
  • Higher revenue realization per customer
  • Employing fewer resources
  • Shorter training duration
  • Faster turnaround time
  • Reduction of manpower attrition
  • Reduction in customer complaints
  • Lower number of cases opened for rework

‘Everything else remaining the same’ is the principle that should never be disregarded, whatever the area being targeted for optimization. A shorter training duration resulting in more errors is always possible, but cannot be called optimization or improvement. If we can reduce the training duration without increasing the number of errors, or without impacting adversely on customer satisfaction, is what can be called improvement.

Enhancement of output can be easily done by ‘throwing people at it’ if it is a manual process or buying more equipment. It does not require a genius to do it. However, it does require a genius to increase output without increasing headcount or without buying more equipment. That is optimization.

Hence, while embarking on an optimization exercise, it is equally important to understand the surrounding variables and parameters and ensure that they stay with acceptable ranges while you strive to optimize in a particular area.

Conclusion

Implementation of process optimization techniques is no longer a choice for organizations, it is a necessity, to keep themselves ahead of the curve.

With its focus on data based BPO work, and its selection as one of the top three providers of data services in the world, oWorkers remains a partner of choice for outsourcing your work to. We are GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified and have an independent Quality team that can guide the improvement project regardless of the framework adopted.

The Pros and Cons of Offshore Outsourcing

The Pros and Cons of Offshore Outsourcing

The Pros and Cons of Offshore Outsourcing

Outsourcing, in the context of Business Process Outsourcing, can be defined as the performance of certain processes essential to the creation of the intended product or service being done by a unit or company or business other than the owner of the final product or service. A legal firm may outsource transcription of dictated submissions and a startup might outsource its payroll processing.

Starting out as an almost contiguous establishment, meant to reduce pressure on high-cost real estate and resources, advancements in communications and software technologies have made it possible for work to be done from anywhere in the world. This has given rise to the phenomena that is offshore outsourcing which is a term used to describe the geographical proximity of the supplier, or lack of it, from the clients’ geographical position. It is normally used to indicate the vendor’s location in another, distant country.

If the vendor is located in a country that is contiguous or close, the term used is ‘nearshore.’

Some people also use ‘farshore’ to indicate the vendor’s location as being distant, but is not a popular usage. Neither is ‘sameshore’ which indicates presence in the same country. 

Enumerated here is an evaluation of some of the prominent benefits and challenges the strategy offers.

Advantages

Lower cost

Cost being a number, is transparent, clear and quantifiable and does not leave room for interpretation or doubt. This has been, and continues to be, one of the primary reasons for the existence of outsourcing as a business model.

Business has always been sensitive to opportunities of making and saving money. Offshore outsourcing has created one such opportunity. Each geography in the world has its own unique history and pattern of development bringing them to where they are today. The range is wide and the gap enormous between rich and poor. According to a World Bank report for 2019, the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD terms was 507 for Afghanistan while it was 55,060 for Australia, almost a hundred times greater. And these are not the most extreme figures in the table.

Just like a natural resource like water will flow from high to low ground, in a free market system, which is what much of the world today follows, work will move from a high cost to a low cost center, across the seven seas. While on the one hand the business that is transitioning work offshore will gain a competitive advantage, it will also result in raising the income levels and work opportunities in the delivery location.

oWorkers operates from some of the most highly rated locations for outsourcing in the world. Our clients report savings of upto 80% when they outsource to us. Our operational efficiencies enable us to save costs which we are able to share with our clients.

Access to a bigger expertise pool

“Clients come for the cost savings but stay for the quality” is how many BPO companies engaged in the business like to believe as the reason for their success. And they may not be wrong.

With the benefit of a high volume of similar transactions across multiple clients, offshore data entry outsourcing companies are able to develop proficiency in some of their areas of work, aided by adding a few industry experts at leadership levels to guide the business. This also enables providers to out their best foot forward as a knowledgeable organisation when they pitch for new business in that vertical.

From the clients’ perspective, the expertise built by a provider will only be beneficial in delivering them greater efficiency and quality. There could be the issue of being dependent on an external party which could be overcome by splitting across vendors it reached that point of risk.

oWorkers operates in its chosen areas of data entry, annotation and content moderation and has delivered successful results to over a hundred clients over eight years of operations. In many cases, on account of the expertise we have built, clients initiate the process directly with us, without first implementing inhouse and then transitioning.

Benefits of scale

By itself scale may not be an advantage form offshore outsourcing but it has the ability to trigger the release of several benefits. As a result of developing expertise in certain areas, providers create a brand value for themselves that results in attracting more similar business. This results in creating a large volume of similar activity or work through aggregation of the work of several clients. What this does is:

Reduces the unit cost of processing – Indirect costs, which do not increase with the volume of transactions, get shared over a larger number of transactions and resources, lowering the unit cost. This enables the vendor to earn profits as well as share some part of the savings with the client.

Enables technology investments – With aggregated volumes, investing in superior technologies often becomes possible and viable. This investment releases further efficiencies in the form of lowering manpower expenses and speeding up processing. Individual clients, with their limited volumes, may not have been able to justify the investment that the vendor is able to make. Working like aggregators, suppliers have even been able to create platform solutions for processes handled manually.

oWorkers partners with technology solution providers to leverage advancements in technology for delivering on client contracts.

Time Zone related benefits

Offshore outsourcing creates an additional variable in the form of time zone difference between the client and supplier.

Some benefits accrue when there is a large difference in the two time zones, both being ranged on roughly the opposite ends of the 24-hour scale, say client being in New York and processing organisation in Manila, roughly 12 hours ahead. What that does is create an overnight processing window. By the time business shuts down in New York it is time for Manila to start working. Work allocated by the client before the end of their business day is processed in Manila when they start their day, and possibly complete it during the day while New York is asleep. By the time they start work the next day, the allocated work would have been turned around, processed, almost like a fairy who waved a magic wand while they were asleep and completed the work.

This happens when there is a significant East-West displacement across the globe.

If the displacement is North-South and not East-West between the client and vendor, it means the two are likely to be in a similar time zone, which could facilitate handling processes that require greater coordination and interaction between the two sides. The key is choosing processes that can benefit from these displacements.

The three centers of oWorkers lie almost at the center of the world. They are located in time zones similar to Western Europe, and are far away from North America, the two main client locations. This allows us flexibility in providing overnight turnaround to US clients as well as being available during working hours for consultations and interactions for Western Europe. In any case, our 24×7 centers ensure that we are able to meet all client requirements.

Access to resources globally

In a competitive world, running a business successfully is hard enough. The need to manage many moving parts makes it all the more challenging. 

Offshoring often takes away some of the pain attached to managing these moving parts, like managing human resources that are required for the work. Getting the right quality at the right price is already difficult. The business also experiences peaks and troughs requiring adjustments in staffing numbers. If the business grows, it does not want to struggle for resources to support its growth. These are some of the human factors that offshoring can assist your business with.

oWorkers operates as a local registered company in all its locations. It is a contributing member of local communities. As a preferred employer, it receives a steady stream of applications that reduces its hiring costs as well as attrition numbers. It also gives oWorkers the flexibility to hire short-term resources to manage peaks, to the tune of almost a 100 resources in 48 hours.

Challenges

Disenchantment of processors

The objective of offshore outsourcing often being to create processing efficiency results in the breaking down of processes to small, repetitive tasks. Over time, this has the potential to create boredom and burnout amongst processors that can allow carelessness to creep in, leading to errors. Not only can this impact the processors, but even other roles that are supposed to monitor errors.

The employing organisation needs to ensure it has systems in place to capture processing errors before they become noticeable by the client.

oWorkers monitors the performance of each individual and provides opportunities for job rotation designed to keep employees fresh and engaged. In addition, fair and transparent employment practices, mandated by our presence in the Eurozone, also create confidence and engagement.

Intellectual Property risk

There are many reasons for some parts of the world being cheaper than others, one of then being a relative lack of governance and enforcement of laws. Such an environment can create a threat for the intellectual property owned by the client that is shared with the vendor engaged for offshore outsourcing, necessary for handling the outsourced processes. It is not unheard of to find that the IP has been violated or there are versions of processes and products available soon after.

In addition to GDPR compliance, oWorkers operates from super secure facilities & protocols for the security of client data and is also ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified. Each staff member signs a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before they are permitted to process client data.

Labor malpractices

While one can debate if there is greater respect for people in what are considered to be ‘developed’ societies or in ones considered to be lower on the same scale, in offshore outsourcing, the issue of labor malpractices has to be viewed through the prism of the client’s regulatory environment as that is what they are answerable to. If the client is from a society where labor malpractices are reasonably clearly articulated as well as enforced

If the supplier operates in an environment where there is greater acceptance of practices such as child labor on account of the prevalent poverty, while the client environment clearly prohibits the same, it could create issues for the client in their markets as well as with regulators, if their use of a vendor indulging in such malpractices becomes established.

Having adopted the model of working with employed resources as opposed to freelancers, oWorkers is committed to the career progression of its staff and offers a fair and transparent work environment drawn from best practices around the world. Our staff are also free to choose to work from home as long as the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic looms.

Cultural differences

It is sometimes said that though the main language might be the same, the dialect and version change every hundred kilometres or so. Two villages in Germany a hundred kilometres apart will be speaking German but have their own unique variant. As will be the case with the Hindi spoken in two villages in Central India a hundred kilometres apart. Culture and customs also change from one place to another.

Offshore outsourcing, where the distance between the two parties could be thousands of kilometers, such differences are likely to get magnified and could result in some amount of misunderstanding and errors creeping in. Sensitivities pertaining to cultural differences could get further magnified if the process involves customer interaction, like Contact Center support and could even result in customer dissatisfaction.

oWorkers, with a center in Europe, which is within three hours of flying time away from any major city in Europe, is culturally aligned to support customer business for Western European clients. In addition, our chosen areas of specialization that focus on data related work, mostly involved interaction with client staffers and not customers.

Hidden costs

While the business case looks promising, there are hidden costs in offshore outsourcing that could tilt the balance. Grid-supplied power supply may be erratic requiring investment in private generating capacity. Travel costs could increase as there will be a likelihood of outsourcer staff needing to travel to the delivery destination to ensure processes are followed and issues resolved. Local events like political unrest and demonstrations could jeopardize business continuity resulting in down time.

oWorkers provides transparent pricing to clients including a choice between rate per unit of output and rate per unit of capacity. Once a price is agreed, all additional costs are borne by oWorkers. We make arrangements to augment resources like power supply in centers where grid supply could be erratic. All costs are factored in when we quote a price so that there are no surprises for clients.

In Conclusion

While there are clear benefits offshore outsourcing delivers to a business, it comes with its own set of limitations which need to be managed. Successfully managing the downsides while taking advantage of the benefits results in creating value for the business.

There are political sensitivities associated with it as well, as it seems to reduce local employment while generating employment in faraway lands, even though many such views have been debunked in the past. In a free market, the flexibility of businesses to operate in a manner they deem suitable, while abiding by rules and regulations of the geographies they operate in, is seen as a fundamental right.

Top Business Process Outsourcing Trends in 2021

Top Business Process Outsourcing Trends in 2021

Top Business Process Outsourcing Trends in 2021

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

These words, attributed to John F Kennedy’s father Joseph, as well as American coach K. Rockne, and also made popular by a Billy Ocean song with these words as lyrics, could apply to the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry based on how they have handled the global meltdown in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic sweeping across the world.

The BPO industry has played a stellar role in ensuring that insurance claims are honored, ecommerce online stores are updated, community discussions on social media are moderated, new phone connections are activated, bank interest charges are explained and overdue car loans are recovered. While the world was locked down.

Used to working from a physical location, after lockdowns were implemented, it became impossible for people to commute to work as well as collect in any meaningful strength in an office space. The industry went into hyper action and quickly worked out protocols that would permit people to work from home, or wherever they were, and continued to support clients in the many different ways that it does.

But business and the environment around it are fickle. What was true yesterday may not be true today. Common BPO activities today, like ecommerce data entry and social media moderation, were not even words in the lexicon twenty years back. What is true today may not be so tomorrow. Millions of smart people and businesses are perhaps working on solutions right now that could dramatically change today’s certainties.

Occasionally events like the pandemic and natural (or manmade) calamities happen which have the power to alter the trajectory of humankind. Otherwise, business, like life, evolves. It rarely changes overnight, though sometimes it feels like it did. It is usually a strengthening or weakening or continuation of trends one may have already noticed.

So, let us look into the crystal ball and try to see business process outsourcing trends in 2021.

Virtual Workplace is here to stay

Shibboleths of the past came crashing down within a few weeks of the Covid-19 induced lockdowns having set in. On grounds of control, data security, supervision and perhaps other reasons as well, BPO work was ‘grounded’ to physical office spaces of providers from where it had to be performed. All other options were considered too risky to be even experimented with.

Faced with a decline in revenues and clients whose businesses would crumble if certain processes were not handled, BPOs did a remarkable makeover in the matter of a few weeks and set themselves up to enable their employees to work from home, or anywhere else, since office became inaccessible and collection of people in large numbers, which is how offices typically operate, was prohibited.

Amongst all trends, this is the one which we can perhaps be certain is going to continue and gain strength and acceptance, what with newer, more virulent strains of the virus apparently running amuck now even as industry leaders push for reform to make it easier.

oWorkers positioned itself for virtual work immediately after the lockdowns came into existence. Even today, our staff can choose to work from home, depending on the guidelines in place in each of the locations. We are fully equipped to work from the office, from home as well as a hybrid model.

Social Media related requirements will drive adoption

Social Media has been a success story in business process outsourcing trends in the last decade. The growth in social media usage has led to enhanced work volumes emanating from social media for BPOs. This is the result of increased adoption of social media by businesses, which is the result of their customers’ preference for social media for communication of various kinds.

Increased usage of social media has not only resulted in serving customer needs, since there is so much data generated on social media as a result of frequent usage, it has also become an important source for mining information as well as influencing behavior.

Social Media related services will be an important offering for BPO outfits. One part of the offering will be traditional BPO services that are rule-based, like community monitoring or responding to customer queries. The other part where BPOs are going to increase their footprint is in the realm of discretionary services, like supporting clients in developing a presence, or creating and running campaigns as well as on-page and off-page SEO work. For businesses that do not either have inhouse talent or a vendor for supporting social media initiatives, will rely on BPO partners will social media skillsets to go beyond traditional BPO services into content creation and distribution.

Content moderation services, that form the bedrock of vibrant interaction on social media, and presents it from descending into bedlam, are part of the core strength of oWorkers. We are committed to making the internet a safer place for everyone with our content moderation services in multiple languages.

Omnichannel Communication will gain traction among business process outsourcing trends

With customers driving the agenda with their choices, omnichannel communication will continue to gain ground. The customer who sent an email yesterday, left a remark on a social media post of the company today and might call in tomorrow, expects the business to know that it was he who made all the three interactions as well as know what these were about.

Omnichannel communication technology adoption that facilitates such communication across channels will gain ground. Different from the multi-channel experience of the past where multiple channels were available, but were often standalone channels, not connected to each other.

Omnichannel is a strategy of improving user experience through connecting a customer’s experience across channels of interaction. It helps customers continue their experience, one channel to another, picking up where they left off. As consumers engage and shift from one platform to another, unified communication across channels is essential for a seamless experience.

oWorkers is a leading player in its chosen area of work, data related BPO services, which includes customer interface over channels like social media that today constitute a core part of customer communication.

Startup Companies: The New BPO Client

BPO adoption has long been led by large corporations, as scale was seen as an essential ingredient of the outsourcing decision. After all, an initiative like outsourcing requires management bandwidth, which costs money. Unless it can be justified by a ‘significant’ change, the transaction cost will be too high. This has been the general train of thought. Which also meant that functions with large volumes, like Call Centers, were among the earlier activities to be outsourced.

As the business world continues to change, and numerous small players try to make a difference, startups and SMEs driving adoption of BPO is part of the emerging business process outsourcing trends. They are focused on their core business and do not wish to be distracted by the peripherals, like paying salaries or filing annual tax returns or moderating their social media footprint or managing the office facilities. They are happy to outsource many of these support functions to BPOs that specialize in them, even though some of them may cost more, and focus on their core business in an effort to make a success out of it. BPOs also give startups the benefit of paying on the basis of usage rather than investing in technology and tools and people.

oWorkers remains committed to supporting clients in our chosen areas of expertise in data entry, content moderation and data annotation. Our clients include a mix of large corporations, SMEs and startups, among them unicorn marketplaces.

Business process outsourcing trends will continue to witness a rise in anywhere to anywhere outsourcing

The backbone of technology that took outsourcing offshore is now taking it ‘anyshore.’ We live in a digitally connected world, which has been borne out by the connectedness provided by the internet during the lockdown when physical interactions were limited. Also, as seen earlier, we are no longer limited by scale for outsourcing. Locations which have a business environment favorable for requirements of BPO work, but failed to make a deep impression earlier, are now prospering. There are new locations coming into the limelight every day, be it Bulgaria and Romania in East Europe, Mexico and Colombia in the Americas and Egypt in Africa. Unless you have a need for a vendor who can provide hundreds of people for a particular service, which might limit the options to India and the Philippines and a few others, you could go to a vendor anywhere.

With its presence in multiple economies in varied environments, from Bulgaria to Egypt to Madagascar, oWorkers not only provides multilingual services in over 22 languages, it can also provide business continuity by leveraging its multiple centers as backups for each other, if required.

Investment in Robotic Process Automation and related technologies will gather speed

Technology is the enabler for BPO business to have taken birth, survived, thrived and spread its tentacles around the world. It is natural that BPO will keep pushing the boundaries of technology for the next innovation.

As it is core business for them, providers are inclined to make investment in technology for the next leap for the process, that an outsourcer may not be willing to, especially for a process viewed as non-core. In addition, with aggregated volumes across multiple clients, providers also develop the scale that justifies such investments which, again, a client, with their own volumes, may never have been able to.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is emerging as a technology of choice for BPOs, as it enables them to carry out repetitive tasks accurately and speedily. In addition, this helps overcome the challenges in the same work being done by humans who often face burnout as a result when doing repetitive tasks.

With its partnerships with technology companies, oWorkers has gained access to the latest technologies in a flexible manner, not limited to one particular suite, which it is able to deploy for the benefit of client transaction processing.

India and the Philippines will continue their leadership

India and the Philippines are not going anywhere in a hurry. The conditions that made them BPO hotspots to begin with, English proficiency, educational qualifications and large talent pools, continue to flourish. There has been and will continue to be, periodic resetting of the type of work handled. At this point, Philippines takes the lead in voice-based BPO services like Contact Centers, while India continues to be the biggest delivery center for all other services.

Supported by home-grown technologies in a fertile entrepreneurial environment, BPO outfits in both these locations will continue to innovate and implement technology solutions in a bid to create more distance between themselves and all the others trying to catch-up, in one of the fastest growing industries on earth.

In a dynamic business environment, oWorkers has established its presence in three geographies considered key for the industry. We continue to evaluate options as we grow and will take decisions in the interest of our business and clients, when the need arises.

Business process outsourcing trends will witness increase in investing in building skills

With many employees working remotely, providers have needed to face up to the reality of having to let go. Accustomed to micro management of frontline agents, with a Team Leader hovering in the shadows and a Quality Analyst plugged in to identify errors so that coaching could be provided, in a remote environment, perhaps out of the absence of options, they have had to trust the frontline staff to do the right thing, especially in processes where she was interacting with customers. To their credit, staff members have stepped up magnificently. Stepping out of the shadows of the image of a BPO employee as one who plugs away at repetitive tasks, BPO staffers have demonstrated that given the right opportunity, they can create value for the organization.

Organizations are now stepping up and making efforts to train employees so that they can create value. More significantly, individuals are shedding their reluctance to invest in themselves and wait for their employer to do so, and are taking up skilling by themselves, helped by the explosion of online courses.

Having adopted the philosophy of working with employed staff instead of freelancers, oWorkers monitors the performance of each individual and charts out growth paths in consultation with them. We also invest in training our employees to take up roles with greater responsibility. Of course, employees are welcome to take up further skilling programs on their own initiative.

Possibility of political overhang on business process outsourcing trends

The recent experience of politics getting involved in decisions that should ideally be taken by businesses on the basis of economics, in the largest outsourcing nation, casts a shadow of doubt on the possibility of such events occurring again in the future, though it does seem that 2021 should be free of such pressure, at least in the US.

Of course, similar threats, or opportunities, emerging in other parts of the world cannot be ruled out. It is a normal business decision, of getting a part of your work done by providers or third parties who can do it better. A construction company might buy cement from a cement manufacturer and not make it themselves. NASA may build a spacecraft with parts sourced from hundreds of vendors instead of building all themselves. But when it comes to Business Process Outsourcing, by raising the spectre of job losses as a result, hiring a vendor to handle customer calls or monitor social media is converted into an emotive issue.

On the provider side, BPO is seen as a driver of employment in underserved economies and hence can become a pawn in the hands of political parties and leaders trying to score brownie points with the populace.

oWorkers operates as a locally incorporated entity in all the locations it provides services from. We are a contributing member of local communities and well integrated. We remain committed to abiding by all applicable rules and regulations and will continue to put forward a case for a free market and a level playing field so that the BPO business can prosper.

Business Process Optimization: How to Improve Workflows

Business Process Optimization: How to Improve Workflows

Business Process Optimization: How to Improve Workflows

A transformation is afoot in the world of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

A formalized BPO industry took shape many decades back with the primary objectives of saving labour cost while performing repetitive tasks, locating larger labor pools for outsourced tasks, creating efficiency and controls for the outsourced, mostly repetitive tasks.

As we probably know, in a competitive world, which is where businesses function, a business is never satisfied. It needs to keep doing more and more and more. It needs to find ways of enhancing revenues. It needs to find ways of reducing cost. It needs to keep finding competitive advantages to keep at bay pretenders snapping at its heels. It needs to find value propositions that enable it to stay relevant in the eyes of its client segment.

Business is littered with the corpses of corporations once considered unassailable in their chosen areas of operation but fell by the wayside as they were unable to effectively negotiate the changes demanded by the sheer passage of time, emerging technologies and customer preferences. Kodak and Nokia readily come to mind though no doubt there are many others.

BPO is no different. Like any business, it needs to stay relevant and competitive. It has had its share of challenges and has been reinventing itself over and over again. It has also brought into common consciousness processes and technologies that were either considered relevant only for manufacturing, or too academic for business applications.

One of the most significant contributions of BPOs has been towards business process optimization. With consistent performance leading to greater trust, and with the growth of consumer franchises greater and greater volumes being processed by BPO partners, they are now taking the lead in defining how business processes should be run for best outcomes.

The tail seems to be wagging the dog but the dog is happy.

So much so that NASSCOM, the industry association for IT and BPO in India, has even been suggesting that the industry should be referred to as Business Process Management (BPM) as it now goes beyond merely providing a data outsourcing solution and actively provides solutions for better management of business processes.

oWorkers has been supporting clients in its chosen areas of data services for over eight years. We have helped clients define, stabilize processes and even implement updated ones to better achieve business goals. We are GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified.

 

What is business process optimization?

In layperson terms, it can be used to refer to any activity that leads to an improvement in one or more business processes.

Businesses being entities driven by the profit motive, everything inside them gets measured in monetary terms. Eventually, all improvement has to trickle down to the bottomline.

Revenue and Cost being the two main components of the bottomline, or profit, improvement should result either in doing the same thing at a lower cost or doing the same thing and realizing higher revenues. In general, though, improvement and optimization focus on the cost side by working on the various processes through which delivery of the company’s products and services is effected. On the revenue side, while optimization could have applications everywhere, in general, marketing and promotion strategies are leveraged to yield better, or different, results from what have hitherto been experienced.

The above notwithstanding, as the trickle-down to the bottomline effect of many changes might not be possible to isolate, businesses attempt to find surrogate variables through which improvement can be implemented and the impact measured. Some examples of areas which might be suitable for improvements and where it might be possible to measure the outcome, could be:

  • Customer satisfaction score
  • Customer response time
  • Transaction wait time in queue
  • Training duration

There is really no end to possible improvement areas. It depends to a great extent on the nature of the business. Also, it does not necessarily have to be a customer impacting area like transaction wait time in queue, which impacts the customer directly. Even internal processes like training, if we are able to enhance, will eventually, at a holistic level, impact all areas, including customers. For example, if the provider is able to reduce its training duration, it could lead to a cost saving with the possibility of the savings being shared with clients.

oWorkers has consistently been ranked among the top three providers of data based BPO services in the world. Our hands-on leadership team, with over twenty years of experience in the industry, leads our projects and improvement initiatives designed to add value to clients as well as our internal processes, using the latest techniques and processes.

 

The need for business process optimization

Let us look at a few examples of human endeavor from sport, often considered to be the pinnacle of physical human striving.

Sir Roger Bannister ran the mile, a distance of 1600 metres, in a time of under 4 minutes in May, 1954. The first human to do so. Many had tried earlier and failed. It was, then, considered the ultimate athletic achievement, one that could not be repeated.

By the eighties, just one generation later, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe were already running the mile in under 3 minutes 50 seconds.

Do you know the current record? It is 3 minutes 43 seconds or thereabouts. 17 seconds shaved off a time once considered impossible. In just two generations.

Take tennis.

According to data collected over the years from Grand Slam events, the average first service speed was under 170 kilometres per hour in the early nineties. Measured in 2008, the first serve speed had increased to over 180 kilometres per hour. Armed with better physical training, and improved equipment, youngsters are serving faster and faster. Of the twenty fastest serves recorded, apparently only one belongs to the period before 2000.

Wherever you look, swimming, mountain climbing, marathon running, sprinting, continuous improvement is evident.

Business is not immune to this facet of human endeavour.

Man’s effort at continuous improvement is as applicable to business as any other facet of life.

And it makes sense too.

After all, in a competitive world, everyone is striving. To do more. Faster. Higher. Better.

If you don’t make the same effort, your business will run the risk of obsolescence and fading away as clients keep looking for creating value for their own businesses.

Hence, continuous improvement is not a choice. It is a survival strategy.

With three centers across the most favored BPO destinations in the world, oWorkers provides services in over 22 languages commonly spoken across the world. With us as a partner, clients can focus on their core business and seek to bring about transformational change with the support of our teams who are trained on continuous improvement methodologies.

 

The Process

There is no standard template for doing something better. Change can come from anywhere. In the context of a business, any business process optimization is likely to follow the broad sequence of steps outlined below:

Identification of need

Well begun is half done, they say. No different for business. However, this is also the most difficult stage. How does one glance across the shopfloor and identify the one process that is most likely in need of some betterment? After all, the business has been using the same processes for some time. One cannot randomly pick up one for special treatment. The right start is important in getting the right results. Here are some methods companies have used for this identification:

Competitor benchmarking – This is a common activity for many businesses, at least businesses with scale. Periodically it makes an effort at comparing itself with its closest competitors in an effort to do just this, identifying areas where the competitor is performing better with the aim of understanding the reason so that it can play catch-up.

Are they employing fewer people for the same output?

Are they able to fulfil orders two days faster than your business?

Such variances, once identified, become the starting point of your efforts at business process optimization.

Trend analysis – Businesses, again, at least ones with scale, also make a periodic effort at establishing trends in their own performance over several periods of measurement.

Transport cost has gone from 6% of Direct Cost to 10%. Is there a problem?

We recruited twice the number of people we hired last year. But our revenue is the same. What is the issue?

Such variances, again, provide leads into the areas which could benefit with some deep dives and detailed analysis.

Common sense – By virtue of being in a business for long, leadership and management teams develop a sixth sense about it. They may not be able to always back it up with data at the start, but they can be trusted to have an inkling about the trouble spots in their processing facility. Very often these provide a quick start to an investigation which often leads to some change being implemented.

Initial study

At the point where the initial ideas are being put together, the amount of information is limited and may only be available at a reasonably high level. The discussion at that stage is based on estimates, guesswork, hunches and possibilities.

That is as good a start as one can get, as it is impossible to have all information available upfront.

Based on the considered opinion of people involved in the discussion, the area needing work is identified which is the starting point of the next phase, that of initial information collection and study. This will serve to validate the initial hypotheses and will determine whether to go deeper into this particular area or drop it and look at other possibilities. The team may need to go through this phase a couple of time before the area is identified and agreed by all stakeholders.

Creating a project plan

From this point onwards there is no looking back. Quite often the initiative is launched in the form of a project with defined ownership and participation and in a format the success of failure of which could be measured.

This phase serves to define critical parameters like:

  • What is the objective; what is the initiative trying to achieve
  • Process or processes in scope and, by exclusion, the ones not in scope
  • Resources available to the project team, including senior level sponsors
  • Measurement method, including an external to the project resource for doing the measurement

Measure

As organizations seek to conduct their activities in a professional and transparent manner, measurement becomes important. This avoids later conflicts when credit for improvements is being sought and either rewarded or refuted. With clear measurements, the organization is better placed to know the real results.

Analyse

Once data becomes available, the process of analysing it begins. It is quite possible that while analyzing we find that data is deficient in some aspects and hence a few cycles of data collection, or measurement, may be interspersed with the analysis phase. It is also possible that additional data is required to reach meaningful conclusions. Either ways, the Measure and Analyze phases are likely to run in parallel for a bit.

The Analyze phase should result in bringing out areas which are likely to benefit based on which the project team will agree on specific actions that are likely to result in business process optimization In the identified areas. Again, no clear process for arriving at the actions is available. A lot of t is based on discussions. There are some tools that are available that some teams find useful, like Fishbone Analysis, Pareto Analysis and old-fashioned Brainstorming.

Improve

The I for Improve is sometimes also used to denote Implementation.

The rubber now hits the road. The theoretical work that was being done by collecting data, analyzing it and making recommendations, now needs to be introduced into the ‘live’ system. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

This can also be seen as a ‘test’ run that is supported by the might of the implementation team that is available to step in if things don’t go as planned.

Control

One of the criticisms improvement initiatives in BPOs have faced is that while a project is in progress and the project team in place, progress is good. In most cases the project results in successful implementation of change. However, once the implementation in a Business As Usual (BAU) manner is done and it becomes a part of normal work, improvements achieved often slide back.

The other criticism is that while improving one parameter that was the goal of the project, some other parameters that were not being monitored, suffer.

The Control phase is meant to ensure that business process optimization achieved is for good and the situation does not revert back to where it had started from. In addition, all other relevant parameters stay either where they were or improve. In other words, the business does not lose on the roundabouts what it gained on the swings.

Note: From the third step onwards, this methodology merges with a methodology known as DMAIC, that stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.  DMAIC is a popular methodology commonly used either as a standalone or as a part of other methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma, to achieve lasting change.

The Quality team of oWorkers is conversant with a variety of quality systems that not only include Six Sigma, Lean and DMAIC, but also with ISO, Kaizen, COPC and TQM (Total Quality Management). They are constantly looking at possibilities of adding value through business process improvement, releasing value for oWorkers as well as clients.

 

In Conclusion

With oWorkers, you get a partner who is an extended part of your organization, looking to bring about positive change both for you as well as for oWorkers.

Having strategically decided to work with employed staff and not freelancers, we take responsibility for their development and training, including training on quality systems to select staff. We are a preferred employer in all the locations we operate from, which gives us the flexibility of offering peaks in staffing to cater to seasonal or other volume spikes, of upto a hundred people in 48 hours.  

We stay committed to bringing about positive change in all communities we work with. The work you outsource to oWorkers will enable us to introduce a few more people to the digital work, hopefully bringing about fundamental change to them and their families.